•   Feb 27, 2019
  •   Tijan
  •   Art

Traditionally, African sculpture was in a wood form and other materials that had extinct, despite having seen some of them kept in museums and other secret areas till today. Majority of these masks served as important elements in the social life of people who carve and keep them. There are different figures styled depending on the chosen objects and their purpose. Historically African sculpture represent acclaimed gods or events but today there is a shift because of what many people regard as “airport art”, that is carvers now carve masks to sell to tourist.   

West Africa is the center of African art from Senegal to Lake Chad, which has made the region being exposed to the world for their wood sculpture when compared to other regions. Wood sculpture is the classical tribal art of many African. African sculpture takes forms and figures which represent the cultural life of the people who carved or created them.

African sculpture takes figures in most cases, therefore, representing the human figure made from wood it is possible to do the same with stones. These can stay for many years as it was new and made just now in places they are kept, appreciated as contemporary art. Tribal African sculpture maybe religious or spiritual in traditional Africa for centuries ago but that belief is changing due to the influence of Islam and Christianity. Discoveries have shown a number of modeled human figures in Nigeria, Mali and South Africa that date back to early 10th century and have been kept and preserved in museums for historical purpose and attractions. 

The portrait of human figures emphasizes the bodily factor that the sculptor really want to define. It is sometimes used as a medium of communication between their spirits and ancestors to follow and practice traditions. They are often crafted by those who are given the power by religious leaders as their roles in traditional societies in Africa. These carved materials serve different purposes according to those who believe in them like bringing fertility, rain, protection of disease, good harvest, evil spirits, helping in social decisions and making political statements just to name a few. The sizes may vary depending on the purpose of it been carved and some people also used it in their homes to serve similar purposes or decorations.

A wood sculpture has been the most used and readable and accessible material used in African sculpture despite the most tradition of sculpture found in Africa was modeled in terracotta which was later followed by the 12th-century cast-metal sculpture of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, West Africa.  

Wood is obviously most prevalent being the most malleable and readily accessible material. Yet the longest recorded tradition of sculpture in Africa is figures modeled in terracotta, followed in the 12th Century by the cast-metal sculptures of the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. From the West African Mande speaking people to central Africa sculptures has been in different shapes and patterns.

Pole scripture with wood in Africa has grasped the round cylindrical form of the human body which starts with a tree trunk cut and shaped to create a sculpture. A good example is the roughly ancestral figures of “Bari” and the colossal pole scripture of the “Azande” in Eastern Sudan. It is believed that scripture can be developed from any long-shaped materials not always wood, for example, ivory elephant-tusk.

The use of a single unbroken line in scripture is still be followed by those in this noble industry found in Africa, as the use of single material is continues to be used instead of adding other pieces. A good example is the wooden African sculpture was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011, if you compare the size of the horse and the rider you happened to see that the horse was very big while the rider was small. He could have additional pieces to increase the size of the rider since he was concerned with the rider. Not all of the African sculpture is based on wood but also block has been used and is been used today to resemble shapes. Sculpture of this kind is found Cameroun parks, The Congo, Senegal, and The Gambia just to name a few. 

African masks are varied, some are realistic others are just stylish and some multi-colored or unpainted. Even when not painted in full but the eyes and mouth are sometimes painted to look for realistic in appearance. In many parts of Africa indigenous art is on the decline but in areas like Ivory Coast, they are doing great. It is primitive at its best and a good example of great African sculpture can be found in best art museums in Africa, Europe, America, and Asia






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