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History and Elements of African Art

Oct 23, 2021 11:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian
African cave painting of cattle and people

African Art. Source - Google

African art refers to the visual arts of native Africa, which include sculptures, paintings, ceramics, rock art, textiles, masks, personal decorating, and jewelry. The beginnings of African art history predates documented history and have been preserved in the mists of time. Rock art dates back millennia, while shell beads fashioned into a necklace were discovered in a cave in the furthest reaches of South Africa's southern peninsula that is 75,000 years old. Some African art has entertainment value, some have political or ideological importance, some is useful in ceremonial contexts, and some have aesthetic worth in and of itself. A piece of African art will almost always have some or all of these components, and in this article, we will go deep into the significance of art in African history and the elements.

 Figure 2 - Visual representation of African Art. Source - Google

African art emphasizes "human figures," which deal with the spiritual and moral elements of human life, to uphold religious ideals. African artisans regarded the human form as having significant aesthetic and religious importance, as well as being linked with genuine beauty. The painters did not intend to represent a certain group of people using human models. They were more concerned with conveying thoughts about life's realities. These depictions expressed spiritual ideas, values, and life concepts. The artists even utilized animal miniatures to convey their messages. Smooth finishes and gleaming, well-polished looks characterize African figure sculptures. A rough and uneven surface, according to African thought, represents ill-favored, ugly, repulsive, and morally tainted imagery. As a result, the artists ensured that their sculptures were properly polished, with no imperfections on the surface, for them to be bright. The human sculptures are also adorned with jewels to add to their allure. Intricate patterns are sometimes added to the artistic works. The most essential aspect of African art is symmetry and balance, which has parallels with Western and other types of art. This refers to the materials utilized in balance and proportion to construct creative creations that fall under the category of technicality, whereas other artworks focus more on culture, religion, morals, and aesthetic qualities. In terms of aesthetic merit, African art pieces typically have a peaceful, cool, and composed appearance. They are constructed in such a way that they appear to be in command of themselves. They exude dignity, self-respect, elegance, and self-esteem.

Figure 3 - Visual Representation of African Art

For a long time, the Western world dismissed traditional African art as primitive and unevolved. Today, African art is being praised as attractive and important, and the world is rediscovering the beauty of this art form, as demonstrated by the growing number of buyers for the distinctive items of art that represent the cultural qualities of many African areas. Part of the shift in view can be attributed to the efforts of current African artists and the diaspora, who have attempted to mix the traditional and modern by employing new creative means to communicate the concepts behind these historical works. The geometric and abstract characteristics of this basic yet sophisticated art style impacted and inspired artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and others. African art shows people's interactions with invisible powers. It aspires to get a better insight and knowledge of the world by integrating the visible and the hidden.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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Figure 1 - The Siddi Community Source - Google

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