African art and culture deals with making sense of the world. It reflects their religious aspects of life and beliefs. African culture has been passed on by teaching and through verbal communication. They used sculptures and objects to pass on their beliefs and customs. Sculptures may be of an ancestor or it may be used during a special ritual or ceremony. Each piece of African art represents a cultural value or belief. For instance, baskets were used to hold the remains of the deceased and masks were worn in battles to invoke the god of strength and courage.
Below are 5 works of art that I have chosen to represent the art I described above. You will see pictures of a sword, mask, sculpture, figurine and woven garment. As I was reviewing these works of arts, I came across some interesting facts that I thought I share. I’ve come across many African art works through out my life, from paintings, to sculptures and figures and so on. African art is popular in other countries and I found it interesting to review the history behind it.
The character represented in this mask, Banda is a composite of a human and animal. This mask is used today for entertainment only, however in the past it carried an extremely sacred significance. It was a high and powerful being that would appear only to privileged society elders. It was used in rituals to prevent danger such as animal attacks.
These figures are consecrated by priests and carried by women who hope to conceive. Women carry the figure on their backs the same way they would a child. The name of a woman called Akua. She wanted to have children and went to consult a priest. The priest told her to have a small wooden child carved and carry it on her back as if it were real. She did as she was told and was laughed at by people. She eventually conceived a child and so women started adopting the practice.
This sword is also known as udamalore and can be found among the high-ranking Owo chiefs. This sword lets people know that the owner is famous and respected person of high ranks who had power and influence. The beaded sheath and its panels include symbolic imagery. The top portion is made with glass beads representing rams, monkeys, human figures and birds. The ram represents leadership among the people. The monkeys are seen as being cunning and is admired for their wit with their deceit.
This work refers to the celebrated West African traditions of strip woven textiles. Master weavers used a complex technique called “floating weave”. Because of the expense and symbolic associations, only people of high rank wore kente. Certain patterns were made especially for kings.
This sculpture was done by Olowe of Ise. He was born in Efon-Alaiye and then moved to southeast Ise. There he carved sculptures for the king and was well known in Africa and beyond the continent. He was responsible for a workshop that apprenticed young artist.