ABE Africa Early

Historical Background
0 Africa has more indiginous languages than any other
0 Plagued by war and fighting (Hutus in Rwanda)
0 Associates with a culture or ethnicity, not a country
0 Scramble for Africa
0 Phoenicians and Carthaginians
0 “Bilal al-Sudan”
Key Terms
0 Scarification
0 Lost-was casting
0 Battered walls
0 Zoomorphic
Lost-Wax Casting
• The city of Ife is also called the “navel of the
world” because Yoruba belief states that the
oni (king) oduduwa created Earth from Ife.
• This is cast with zinc brass using the lost wax
casting method.
• The crown indicates that the head is of a king
but the soft features noticeable around the
nose and mouth imply that the head is
actually female.
• Scarification can be seen in parallel lines
running down the face
• A hole can be found in the neck. These holes
are most likely used to attach a larger body
• Leo Frobenius believed that this artwork was
from the lost city of Atlantis because of how
naturalistic it was. (Europeans didn’t believe
that African artwork could be so naturalistic)
• Some art historians argue that the head is an
idealized image of beauty and not a portrait
of a specific king
Crowned Head of
a King
Ife, Yoruba,12th cent, Zinc Brass,
9 7/16”
• Early African art started with
Rock art.
• This rock painting shows the
dancers wearing masks and
decorative clothing that
suggest they are involved in a
• The horses in the second
painting show introduction of
other cultures because
horses were not common in
Dancers in
Ceremonial Attire
Rock-wall painting, Tassili-n-Ajjer, Algeria, 5000
• The Nok civilization is known for the
first evidence of iron technology
• The earliest known sculptures of subSaharan Africa come from the Nok
• The head is larger than a real head and
is part of a complete human sculpture
• A convention found in Nok art is Dshape of the eyes.
• The buns on the head have holes to hold
decorations such as feathers
• Many Nok sculptures are also highly
decorated with jewelry
Head from
Nok, 500 BCE-200 CE, Terra
Cotta, 36 cm
• The Igbo-Ukwu civilization,
known of their use of copper
alloy, is located in Eastern
• The excavation at Igbo-Ukwu
revealed a burial chamber
containing an individual
dressed in royal clothing sitting
on a chair surrounded by
expensive objects that
symbolizes his power
• Ivory and imported beads are
some of the expensive objects
• The fly whisk, staff, and fan held
by the individual are symbols of
his power
Burial Chamber
at Igbo-Ukwu
• This is from the Bantu located
in the Kongo basin
• Nkisi Nkondes are dolls used to
communicate with the dead in
the Kongo religion
• A convention of Nkisi Nkondes
is the large amount of nails
inserted into them
• Nkisi Nkondes are also used to
represent power and are used
in rituals
Nkisi Nkonde
DRC, 30”, Wood and Nails
• This is an example of Benin art
• An Iyoba is a queen mother
• This mask is used as a belt ornament
worn by an oba
• The two lines on the mask forehead
show scarification, a convention of
early African art
• This particular mask is possible Idia,
the mother of Esigie who was an oba
• Idia is known for raising an army and
using magic to help her son defeat his
• The Portuguese men that helped Esigie
expand his kingdom are on the mask’s
Hip Mask
Representing an
Iyoba (Queen
Benin, 1550 CE, Ivory, Iron, and copper,

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