apart2014.ancient african art

Ancient African Art
By: Karen Flores
Background Info
• The city of Ife in Southwestern Nigeria is known as the “navel of the
world”, in other words the site of creation
• the people of Ife believed that their first ruler, oni Oduduwa, came
down from heaven to create and populate the earth
• In the 11th century, Ife became a lively metropolis and cultural center
• Ancient Ife was circular with the “oni” palace at the center, and ringed
by protective stone walls and moats
• Ife was connected to other Yoruba cities by roads that radiated from
the center and pierced the city walls at elaborate fortified gateways
partially decorated with pavement mosaics created from stones and
pottery shards
• from these elaborately patterned pavement mosaics, came the name
for Ife’s most artistically cohesive centuries (C. 1000-1400 CE), the
Pavement period
13-1. Ritual Vessel
Name: Ritual vessel
Date: 13-14th century
Medium: terra-cotta
What culture: Yoruba, Nigeria
Why was it made: religious purposes
Subject: religion
Style: Yoruba, Nigeria
Historical/cultural context: this
vessel was broken on purpose, before
burial, so that earths liquids could
flow through it; found in Ife in a semicircular courtyard; height of 24.9 cm
The Lure of Ancient Africa
• African riches attracted merchants and envoys in ancient times, and
trade brought the continent in contact with the rest of the world
• Between 1000 and 3000 BCE, Phoenicians and Greeks founded
dozens of settlements along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa
in order to extend trade routes across the Sahara to Lake Chad and
then the Niger River
• In the 7th and 8th centuries CE, Islam swept across North Africa, and
therefore Islamic merchants were regular visitors to Bilad al-Sudan,
the Land of the Blacks
• West African gold financed the flowering of Islamic culture
• A new language, Swahii, evolved from centuries of contact between
Arabic-speaking merchants and Bantu-speaking Africans
Saharan Rock Art
• Early Africans painted and inscribed an
abundance of images on the walls of the caves
and rock shelters in which they sought refuge.
• Rock Art has been found all over Africa .
• The earliest images of Saharan rock art are
thought to date from the least 8000BCE
• Vivid images of hippos, elephant, giraffe,
antelopes, and other animals incised into rock
surface that there was a lot of wildlife that
roamed around.
13-2 Cattle being tended
section of rock-wall painting, Tassilin-Ajjer, algria. C. 2500-1500BCE
*Men and women are gather in front of their
round, thatched houses and the men tending
• The cattle shown are quite varied.
• Overlapping forms and the confident
placement o near figures low and distant
figures high in the picture creating a sense
of depth and distant
• Egyptian influence on the less deveolped
region of the Sahara
Sub-Saharan Civilizations
• Saharan peoples presumably migrated
• They brought there agriculture and animal
• Created more efficient weapons and
farming tools
13-3 Head
Nok, c. 500BCE-200BCE
terra-cotta height 14 3/13 National Museum, Lagos,
• Some of the earliest evidence of iron
technology in sub-Saharan Africa comes from
the so-called Nok culter.
• Nok people were farmers who grew grain and
oil-bearing seeds
• They were also smelter with the technology for
refining ore
• The triangular or D shape are the
characteristics of nok style and appear on
scalpers of animas
• The holes on the face allowed the air to pass
freely as the figure was fired
• A tradition of naturalistic sculpture began in
• Symbols of kingship that had been worn
within living memory, indicating that the
figures represent rulers
13-4 Head of a king
from Ife. Yoruba, c. 13 century ce. Zinc brass.
13-5 head said to represent the
Usureper Lajuwa. From lfe. Yoruba,
c. 1200-1300CE. Terra-cotta
• The head could also have been used to
display a crown during annual purification
and renewal rites.
• Terra-cotta are bit fitted for attachments.
• There are debates whether or not the Ife
heads are true portraits.
• Africans did not produce natural portraits
• Ife was probably was probably the artistic
parent of the great city-state of Benin
• The tradition of casting memorial heads for
the shrines of royal ancestors endures
among the successors f the oranmiyan to
this day
13-6. Memorial head
benin early period. C.1400-1500CE.
Brass, height 9 3/8
• The British invaders discovered shrines to
deceased obas filled with brass heads, bells,
and figures.
• Benin brass heads ranged from small, thinly
cast, and naturalistic to large, thickly cast, and
highly stylized
• Benin heads must be visualized on a
symmetrical circle
• Necklaces form a tall, cylindrical mass that
greatly increases the weight of the sculpture
13-7 Head of an oba(king)
Benin late period, c. 1700-1897CE,
13-8 General and officers
Benin Middle Period c.1550-1650CE
• Shows elaborate military dress holing a
spear in one hand and a ceremonial sword
in another hand
• Obas also commissioned important works
in ivory
13-9 Mask representing an iyoba(queen mother)
Beinin middle period, c.1550CE, ivory, iron, and
Other urban centers
• Important centers also arose in the interior.
• West Africa to the Mediterranean from at
least the first millennium BCE
• West Africa met caravans arriving from the
• Eventually the trading networks extended
across Africa from the sedan in the east to
the Atlantic coast in the west
13-10 Horseman from old Djenne
Mail. 13-15thcentury, terra-cotta
height 27 34
13-11 Great Friday Mosque, Djenne
Mali, showing the eastern and northern
facades. Rebuilding of 1907, in the style of
13th century
13-12 conical tower, great
Zimbabwe. C. 1200-1400CE high of
tower 30’
13-13 bird, top part of a monolith
from great Zimbabwe. c. 12001400CE
Soapstone, height of bird 14 ½’’

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