AP Art History CH. 34

AP Art History CH. 34
By Jessica Dau, Vivian Lee, Catherine Pham, and
Victor Pham
Period 3
19th Century African Art (Overview)
● Ancient arts of Africans were known for their rock
paintings. Similar to the Paleolithic paintings on the
● Research provided much more detail on the use,
function, clarification, and meaning of works produced
before the 1800s.
● African arts exist in varied human situations, and
knowledge of these contexts is important for
understanding these works.
San Rock Paintings
● San - People who occupied the southeastern coast of South Africa during early
European colonization. Hunters and gatherers. Some raided ranches for livestock and
horse. Art centered on animals they pursued.
Two San riders on horses drive a
herd of cattle and horses toward a
San encampment. (Center left of left
(Right Image far left). Single figure
possibly rain maker or diviner leads
an enland, an animal considered in
rainmaking and rituals, toward the
Human leading an animal suggest
this motif may represent a ritual
Stock Raid with Cattle, horses, encampment, and magical “rain animal,” rock painting (two
details), San, Bamboo Mountain South Africa, mid-19th century. Pigments on rock. Fig 34-2
Reliquary Guardian Figure
● Reliquary Guardians play an Important role in Ancestor worship. Africans
believed that ancestors provided help for the living, including help in
maintaining bountiful crop production
● Ancestor veneration (reverence) takes material form as collections of
cranial and other relics such as bones to be gathered in special
Fang (artist) guardian figures, or bieri, was designed to sit on the edge of a
cylindrical bark boxes of ancestral bones, ensuring no harm would befall the
ancestral spirits.
Guardian is symmetrical, with proportions that emphasize the head, and feature
rhythmic buildup of forms that suggest contained power.
Proportions of body resemble and enfant, but muscularity of figures indicate adult.
Infant and Adult traits to suggest circle of life.
Reliquary guardian figure (bieri), Fang,
Late 19th Century. Wood 8.75” high. Fig.
Throne Of Nsangu
● African art also glorifies living rulers. Example: Throne Of King Nsangu.
Tensive use of richly colored textiles and shiny materials,
such as glass beads and cowrie shells.
Intertwining blue and black serpents decorate cylindrical
seat of the king’s throne.
Two of king’s retainers, constantly at his service. Located
above the throne; one man holds a royal drinking horn.
Other is a woman carrying a serving bowl.
King’s bodyguards are located below wielding rifles.
Decorated rectangular footstool are dancing figures.
King’s attire/garnishes complement bright colors of seat,
showing his wealth and power.
Throne and footstool of King Nsangu, Bamum,
Cameroon, ca. 1870. Wood, textile, glass beads, and
cowrie shells, 5’9” high. Fig 34-5
Nail figure (nkisi n’kondi)
D: 1875-1900
P/S: 19th Century
A: unknown
M/T: Wood, nails, blades, medicinal materials, and cowrie shell.
Carved wood(subtractive method), with inserted nails/blades.
F: Kongo power figure used by trained priest
C: embodied spirits, activated by inserted nails/blades
DT: simple anatomical forms, unproportionally large head, face is
crude but natural, liberated, smooth (wood)
Ideas: held in awe by villagers due to spirits’ ability to inflict of heal harm,
figures stood between life and death
20th Century Art
❖ strongly traditional vs. modern African art
❖ gender given roles = men were builder/architects/carvers while women were
painters/potters/body painters = collaborated
❖ The 20th century contains nine different styles: Benin, Asante, Yoruba, Senufo, Dogon, Mende,
Kuba, Samburu, and Igbo
❖ Benin: most important 20th century artwork (very traditional)
❖ Asante: figures contained long, flattened heads = beautiful
❖ Yoruba: has many skilled artists (Olowe of Ise) Olowe’s artwork contain complex, elongated
bodies, fine textures, and the stacking of warriors/weapons/creatures
❖ Senufo: artwork is tied to the community, contains many dancing masks for social,initiation
processes,funerary, and public purposes (men wore women masks)
❖ Dogon: specialized in creating cyclical/elaborate masks, human masquerades were dramatized
by legends with people wearing spirit/character masks
❖ Mende: women made masks and danced (change from tradition, men danced/wore masks)
❖ Kuba: mostly woven textile masks/clothing which embodied supernatural powers and political
❖ Samburu: rural areas of eastern Africa where men/women embellished their body with paint
❖ Igbo: creation of houses for sacrificial offerings (still more traditional/little modern)
Benin Shrine of Eweka II
Material/Technique: base = sacred riverbank clay, copperalloy altarpiece, ivory (elephant tusk) reliefs, wooden staffs,
metal bells, bleached white = purity/goodness, Altar to
Hand = hierarchy with king at top
Function: a royal altar of/for Benin King Eweka II
Context: In 1897, the British took over Benin City (this is
the only shrine remaining today)
Name: Shrine of Eweka II
Date: unknown (photographed in 1970)
Period/Style: 20th Century, Benin
Artist/Architect: unknown
Description: similar to earlier shrine versions, heads
symbolize the nature of kingship, glistening surface,
smooth/red = repel danger and evil, heads = white = purity,
tusks = male physical power, wooden staffs = calling royal
ancestors/refer to generations, Benin king = wisdom/good
judgement/divine guidance of kingdom
Ideas: through the sacrifice of animals the king purifies his
head/mind through invoking strength from his ancestors
Mende Sowie Masks
Material/Technique: high/broad forehead = wisdom/success, black shiny coloring,
masks are characterized by elaborate coiffures, shiny black coloring, triangularshaped faces with slit eyes, rolls on the neck, actual/carved image of amulets, and
emblems at the top
Function: evokes female ancestral spirit of the water spirits, masks worn to conceal
their bodies from the audience, created with specific societal purposes (debated by
carver (men) and the women)
Context: Sande women controlled the education/acculturation of young
males/females, associated masks with water spirits (the color black) = connects with
human skin color/world
Name: Sowie Mask
Date: unknown
Period/Style: 20th Century, Mende
Artist/Architect: unknown
Description: glistening back surface, mask contains a turtle on top of the “helmet”,
signs of beauty/good health/ prosperity = rippling, woven/plaited hair = harmony/ideal
order in a household, slit eyes/small mouth = seriousness
Ideas: women became masqueraders (not only men = nontraditional), the masks
symbolized the adult women’s role of being a wife/mother/provider for the
family/medicine keeper, appeal to the ideals of feminine beauty/morality/behavior
Samburu Samburu Men and Women
Material/Technique: painted their bodies with red ocher, wore
bracelets/necklaces/beaded jewelry made by women, create more
elaborate bead necklaces for themselves, available
plastics/aluminums, woven textiles
Function: unknown however possibly
ritual/spiritual/celebratory/coming of age/spouse looking purposes
Context: men and women adorned their bodies with ritual paints
with distinct personal styles, men who are unmarried warriors
spends hours creating elaborate hairstyles
Period/Style: 20th Century, Samburu
Description: to separate the genders, women shaved their heads
and adorned with bead headbands, personal decorations were
created as a child, each design symbolized something (ex:
Artist/Architect: unknown (women did the
body paint)
Ideas: the Samburu people danced and celebrated their individual
characteristic, religious purposes?
Name: Samburu Men and Women Dancing
Date: unknown (photographed in 1973)
Igbo Ala and Amadioha
Material/Technique: made from mud (houses), inside of house contains
images of frightened/beautiful animals taken from mythology, houses were
to never go under repair = return back into earth
Function: early civilians created mbari houses, mud houses, every 50 years
to make sacrificial offering to their major gods (ex: Ala, goddess of the
earth), contained numerous unfired clay sculptures (an example is the
picture on the left)
Context: This sculpture depicts Ala and the thunder god, Amadioha, this is
a new ritual where the house is open to allow the prayer to have his/her
prayer heard (unlike Greeks who prayed outside temples which were
created for the gods)
Name: Ala and Amadioha
Description: the houses were very elaborate, god = modern clothing, Ala =
traditional body paint/fancy hairstyle, enlarged torsos/necks/heads =
Date: unknown (photographed in 1966)
Period/Style: 20th Century, Igbo
Artist/Architect: unknown
Ideas: the difference in clothing represents Igbo’s traditional views vs.
modern views (both were viewed as positive), men were allowed modern
attire while women were to be traditional
Comparative Analysis
34-9 Seated
Dogon, Mali
34-10 Male
and female
Baule, Cote
-Depiction of male and female figure
-conceptual representation
-unproportional figures to emphasize idealization of culture
-both portray nude figures with focus on different genitalia and gender
-carved out of wood
-Emphasize gender roles in African society
*man portrayed as hunter and
warrior w/quiver and contact with female
*woman carries child on back
-incised abstract geometric lines and patterns
-rhythm and tension flows through forms and
negative space
-completely anatomically incorrect
-figures depict some emotion
-spirits or ancestors in shrine/altar
-created during 1800-1850
-Portray asye usu (bush spirits)
-Created later, during late 19th or early 20th
-elongated necks with enlarged heads and
-still records naturalistic aspects of human
*curved breasts, individual phalanges,
-carved for religious use by diviners
also adorned with beads and kaolin
-much smaller in size than other work
Contemporary Art
The art forms of contemporary Africa are immensely varied.
However, there are four examples that can give a sense of the
variety and vitality of African art today.
Dogon Togu Na
Under Dogon Togu na , also known as “men's house of words”, traditionalism and modernism intertwine.
Recent replacement posts feature a narrative or topical scenes of varied subjects such as horsemen,
hunters, or woman preparing food. These artworks include abundant descriptive detail, bright polychrome
painting in enamels, and some writing.
Unlike earlier traditional sculptors, these artists want to be recognized and are eager to sell their works to
The togu na is also called the ‘men's house of
words” because men’s deliberations crucial to
community wellbeing took place under its roof.
It is considered the “head” and the most
important part of the community, which the
Dogon characterize with human attributes.
Earlier posts, like the picture to the right, show
simplified renditions of legendary female
ancestors, similar to stylized ancestral couples or
masked figures.
34-24 Togu na (men’s house of words), Dogon, Mali, Photographed in 1989. Wood and pigment.
Trigo Piula
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Trigo Piula was a painter trained in Western techniques and styles. His
works fused western and congolese images and objects.
A traditional Kongo power figure related with warfare and divination stands at the composition’s center as a
visual mediator between the anonymous foreground viewers and the multiple TV images.
In traditional Kongo contexts, this figure’s feather headdress links it to a supernatural and magical power
from the sky. Such as lightning and storms.
Traditional Kongo thinking and color symbolism, the color white and earth tones are associated with spirits
and the land of the dead.
Ta Tele depicts a group of Congolese citizens staring hypnotized at colorful pictures of
life beyond Africa displayed on 14 TV screens. The images include reference to travel to
exotic places, sports events, love, the earth seen from a satellite, and wester worldly
In Piula’s rendition, headdresses refer to the power of airborne televised pictures. The
artist shows most television viewers with a small white image of a foreign object. The
television messages have deaded the minds of Congolese people to only modern
thoughts or commodities
Piula suggests the world’s new television induced consumerism is poisoning the minds
and souls of the Congolese people as if by sorcery or magic.
34-25 Trigo Piula, Ta Tele, Democratic Repubic of Congo, 1988.
Oil on canvas, 3’ 3.375’’ x 3’ 4.375”. Collection of the artist.
Willie Bester
Willie was among the critics of the apartheid system ( government sponsored racial separation).
His pictures were packed with references to death and injustice
Blood red and ambulance yellow are unifying colors dipped or painted on many parts of the works.
Numbers refer to dehumanized life under apartheid.
The whole composition is rich in texture and dense in its collage combinations of objects, photographs,
signs, symbols, and paintings.
Bester’s 1992 Homage to Steve Biko is a tribute to the gentle and heroic leader of the
South African Black Liberation Movement whom the authorities killed while he was
in detention. Through his piece of work, Bester includes many symbolic images.
This portrait memorializes both Biko and the many other antiapartheid activists
indicated by the white graveyard crosses above a blue sea of skulls beside Biko’s
head. The crosses stand out against a red background that recalls the inferno of
burned townships. The stop sign (lower left) seems to mean “stop kruger” or perhaps
“stop apartheid.” The tagged foot above the ambulance (to the left) also refers to
Biko’s death. The red crosses on the ambulance door and on Kruger’s reflective dark
glasses echo, with sad irony, the graveyard of crosses. The oil can-can guitar bottom
center), another recurrent Bester symbol, refers both to the social harmony and joy
provided by music and the the control imposed by apartheid policies.
34-26 Willie Bester, Homage to Steve Biko, South Africa, 1992. Mixed
media, 3’ 7.83” x 3’ 7.85”. Collection of the artist.
Kane Kwei and Paa Joe
❖ Kane Kwei ,of the Ga people in Urban Coastal Ghana, created a new kind of wooden casket that brought
him both critical acclaim and commercial success.
❖ Kane created figurative coffins intended to reflect the deceased’s life, occupation, or major
accomplishments. He made diverse shapes, cows, whales, cars, onions. Using only nails and glue rather
than carving.
❖ Kwei’s sons and his cousin Paa Joe have carried on his legacy.
In the photo to the right is a 2000 photograph of joe’s showroom in Teshi,
prospective customers view the caskets on display, including an airplane and a
cow. Only some of the coffins made by Kwei and Joe were ever buried.
34-27 Paa Joe, Airplane and cow coffins in the artist's showroom
in Teshi, GA, Ghana, 2000
African Art Today
● During recent decades, invasion of christianity, islam, western education, and
market economies have led to a secularization in all the arts of Africa.
● Many figures and masks commissioned for shrines, incarnations of ancestors, and
spirits are being sold to outsiders.
● Traditional Values hold considerable force in villages. some people adhere to
spiritual beliefs that uphold traditional art forms
● Contemporary African art remains as varied as the vast content itself and
continues to evolve.

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