A Dive Into African Art History

A Dive Into African Art HistoryA Dive Into African Art History
A Dive Into African Art HistoryA Dive Into African Art History

Long before the recording of accounts, the colorful African art history has already been flourishing, reshaping itself with the contours of time. Depicting the versatile and elaborate societies and empires, African art history illustrates the vibrant civilizations and customs each group has nurtured with each consecutive generation.
The oldest surviving examples are the rock carvings and paintings in Namibia, which are about 27,000 years old. The art of the San people exhibiting their beliefs in the power of the medicine men or the shamans and their fascinating practices and rituals are well scattered throughout the area. In the Drakensberg Mountain, South Africa, alone; over 30,000 known paintings were found and classified into groups representing different periods of ancestral art.


The first known sculptures in Africa are by the Nok people of Central Nigeria, going back from 500 BC to AD 200. The sculptures shaped out of clay have the contours of human figures and heads.
A huge gap marks the history of African art afterwards. Most of the surviving authentic ancestral masterpieces are crafted between the 14th to the 17th century. This is due to the fact that most of the materials that were available in this bridging period were perishable. The tribes had used several kinds of wood, textiles, plant fibres and leather. And these objects were eventually worn and in time damaged due to their daily and intensive use in rituals and ceremonies.
The ancient Egyptians belonging to the western tribes have greatly influenced the region's art history. The Egyptian form of art is extremely symbolic, as illustrated by the artefacts still being found from the monuments and tombs.
They symbolise the ethnic group's culture that gives life to mythical gods and goddesses, emphasises life after death and preserves the knowledge of their ancestors. Due to the Egyptians' resistance to internal change and foreign influence, their part in shaping the history has remained astonishingly constant for a time period of 3000 years.


Around the 10th century, in the parts within the sub-Saharan Africa, a more elaborated way of producing crafts were introduced in the African art history. Amid the most inventive and technically advanced creation in African art include the bronze work of the Igbo-Ukwu. Excavations brought out a great number of intricately detailed bronze sculptures in the form of regalia castings and ritual vessels.
The most important and among the earliest occurrence of realism is noted in the works of the Yoruba people of Ilé-Ifè. Among their native masterpieces include realistic stone, bronze, and terracotta sculptures. The advanced artistic culture of the Yoruba was more highlighted on the discoveries of stunning life-sized bronze and terracotta figures between the 1910 and 1930.
With the development of the different political systems, religions, culture and ways of doing day-to-day things, came the significant and extraordinary advancement in African art history. With improved tools and more medium to create attractive objects of religious or functional importance, the number and design of crafts have become limitless.
Statues, paintings, masks, fabrics, furniture, pottery, beadwork, baskets and metalwork flourished throughout African art history, making the continent one of the most sought-after destinations amid the connoisseurs of art and culture.

Article courtesy of Go Articles

A Dive Into African Art History