Netflix Sunday’s – Michael Soi

What is African Art?

In Africa art can have many different purposes. Depending on the culture, there is an abundance of different cultures in Africa. Some spiritual, others are cultural, or some are seen and handled as high luxury items. 

African art has for long been considered primitive because it uses different conventions than European art. But it is actually very sophisticated. Just because it doesn’t conform to European notions of realism and has ritual or decorative influences, doesn’t mean the forms are primitive, or that the artists lacks skill and talent. The colors and patterns all have meanings and traditions connected to them. They tell a story that can be read by those who know the vocabulary.

There is a wide range of characteristics in African Art, some of which contradict each other: Africa is the longest inhabited continent, has large areas of deserts where art and artifacts have been preserved for thousands of years, other areas where climate and insects destroy structures, statues, fabric, and everything else within decades, and areas which are just now being studied by outsiders. There are far more pyramids in the Sudan for example, and increasing evidence that civilizations and cultures there predate Egypt’s own remarkable contributions to humanity’s vision of daily life and the cosmos, which is ultimately a huge component of what we call art.

African Art is describes as the modern and historical paintings, sculptures, installations, and other visual culture from native or indigenous Africans and the African continent.

Africa has a wealth of contemporary artists who have re-interpreted classic African art into new forms

Queen Mother Pendant Mask: Iyoba16th century

How did African Art become Primitive Art by Definition one wonders?

Because of colonialism and slavery, African art found its way around the world. First presented as curiosities of primitive cultures, objects such as masks and sculptures influenced European artists looking for a new vocabulary that didn’t rely on Realism

People use the word primitive to mean the “simple” humans of early days. And so even though early on it might have just meant to refer to works like Picasso’s, it then became convoluted with primitive art meaning “simple human” works not just “simple” works.

There are already way too many stereotypes of Africans being barbaric or primitive or uneducated, and so on and so forth. African art may be simple in geometry or color, but it does not mean that the people themselves are. Not calling African art primitive is a way to disassociate the two terms. 

African art was never art for art sakes, more than just pretty pictures, sculptures, textiles etc, it was spiritual and often reflects the era it was made, in the case of textiles and hairdo it can tell your status, paintings tell tales.

Africa is a large continent full of a myriad of tastes, traditions and cultures, its art cannot be defined under just one heading.

African Art has many characteristics, some of which include creative expressionism over realism, the prevalence of images and sculpture of the human figure, larger focus on sculpture rather than painting, abstract themes and representations, melding visual and performance arts (such as in the case of masks), and non-linear scaling.

The point is that art is art and you know it. All art is representational, and particularly as modern art moved to analyze various aspects of representation in art (be it form or color or shapes or points of view or light) the ability to represent the human form and give life to a simple line or curve, then it became important to study African Art as they were better at creating a minimalist representation, the essence of life and form.

Without African Art Modern Art would not exist.