African Art

  1. African Rock Art Some of the oldest prehistoric art in the world is in southern Africa. This website has images from caves in Namibia and South Africa with information about their histsory.

  2. Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpute Explore the creation myths and legends of many African cultures through masterpieces of tribal art. The Metropolitan Museum's extensive collections are the heart of this web gallery.

  3. African Voices This is a special web gallery of an exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. There's an interactive timeline, a section on themes in African art and a photo exhibit of Afro-Brazilian religioin.

  4. National African Art Museum This links you directly to the art collection of the museum. You can search for art by country, theme, materials, or style. There is also information on how the artworks were used, the use of imagery, and comtemporary artworks.

  5. Ethiopian Icons: Faith and Science In the 4th Century AD the royal court of the Aksumite Kingdom in Ethiopia (northeast Africa) was converted to Christianity. Church patrons commisioned artist-priests to create colorful icons (sacred images). This web exhibit explores icons of the past and present.

  6. Great Zimbabwe Part of the Metropolitan Museum's Timeline of Art History, this short essay gives you information about the extensive stone architecture of a great southeast African kingdom. There are images and a map.

  7. Initiation Arts in African Traditions The Smithsonian Institute created this three part web exhibit on the paintings, sculpture and ritual objects used in intiation ceremonies for young people. There are photographs that show how objects were used.

  8. African Art: Aesthetics and Meaning This was a special exhibit at the University of Virginia. There are two short essays and fourteen interesting artworks with good information about each one.

  9. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a wonderful feature, the Timeline of Art History. There are hundreds of beautifully illustrated articles on special topics organized chronologically, or from the oldest to the newest, as art developed around the world. Here are topics and artworks of interest about African art.

    • Gold in Asante Courtly Arts In the Asante culture, gold was considered an earthly counterpart to the sun, it was the vital life force or "kra" (soul). Gold jewelry and sculptures were an important sign of the king's power.
    • Exchange of Art and Ideas The court artists of the kingdoms of Benin, Owo and Ijebu shared artistic ideas and styles. This resulted in a rich heritage of royal pendants and masks, bracelets and altar sculptures.
    • African Rock Art of the Central Zone The pre-historic artwork in this regioin is generally composed of finger-painted, monochromatic geometric images.
    • African Rock Art of the Southern Zone Pre-historic rock art in this area included painting and engraving. It was part of initiation rituals, political protest and shamanistic art.
    • Kingdoms of the Savana In the 17th and 18th centuries, three large multi-ethnic empires developed. Art forms and insignia associated with the royla courts spread throughout the area.
    • Political African Women: 16th - 18th Centuries These artworks record the history and achievements of women who were leaders, priestesses, traders, cultivators, oracles, wives and mothers.
    • Portraits of African Leadership In Africa, sculptures of rulers and ancestral heroes serve a variety of political and spiritual purposes. They were often symbols, not likenesses, that showed physical, intellectual and spiritual superiority. This links to three other good sites.

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