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. The Mali Empire Western Africa was ruled by great empires from AD 700 - 1600. One of those extensive kingdoms was Mali. This web site gives you informatioin on the history, art and culture of Mali that was based on a rich trading system that stretched thousands of miles.

  8. Art and Oracle Many tribes in sub-Saharan Africa practiced divination rituals to make important decisions in their lives. Magical artworks were a key part of the rituals. This web exhibit will teach you how divination was used and show you artworks used by ancient and modern diviners.

  9. Tradition in Yoruba Art This web exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City concentrates on Yoruba sculpture. You can learn about the artistic processes used to create the art and the rituals where they were used. There are video clips showing actual ceremonies. Have fun exploring.

  10. Interview with a Yoruba Artist Bolaji Campbell was born and educated in Nigeria. This interview was conducted when Mr. Campbell was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an exhibition of Yoruba sculpture.

  11. Yoruba Adire Cloth are make by folding, tying, and/or stitching cloth with raffia before dyeing. This is called adire oniko, after the word for raffia, iko. They also make another type, adire eleko, by painting or stenciling designs on the cloth with starch. Both types are dyed in indigo, a natural blue dye. This site gives you beautiful examples of many types of adire cloth.

  12. African Rock Painting This web site explains the importance of rock painting to the Bushmen of South Africa. You will learn about the symbols in the painting and how shamans entered a trance to communicate with the spirit world and protect the members of their tribe.

  13. The African Galleries The Sainbury African Galleries at the British Museum display a selection of objects that aims to highlight the extraordinary diversity - cultural, geographical, ethnic and artistic - of Africa and its immense impact on the rest of the world. This web gallery has 22 masterpieces - ceramics, textiles, masks and sculpture - for you to enjoy. The first art works were created in the last 20 years.

  14. African Art In/Out of Context The Davis Museum explores four artworks from the Benin culture - a portrait of a king, a shoulder mask, an ivory tusk and a granary door lock. Each artwork is shown in its original setting with information about its purpose and significance to the culture.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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