To begin with, African art was usually items than paintings. So how does one explicate the idea of African art and paintings? Firstly, 3D objects dominated the much less world of that of paintings. Nevertheless, both are equally informative and priceless.
If you were to visit an art museum and go to observe the African art pieces, they would almost all be things like pottery, sculptures, wooden spears, clay bowls, necklaces and so forth. Hence, you can see that all these items had specific function. Even the trademark painted masks that you may be familiar with, served a formal, important aspect. It usually reflected tribal lore and religion.
The African country of Mesopotamia has been called the cradle of civilization. From that province, life changed and evolved and dispersed to other areas. Staying on focus, you will find constant themes that permeate the structure and meaning of African art.
You may notice how everything serves the purpose that fits the use of the human body like the former examples. Also, African antiquities reflected the pride, valor and honor of those who possessed these valued objects.
Ancient African tribes were extremely superstitious that is mirrored in their art. Masks often represented spirits of animals through rituals often demonstrated through the familiar “fire dances” depicted on TV and school books. Another element is the abstract detail and shiny finish typical to much of African workmanship.
Now we will delve into the much less practiced and more distinct form of African art: rock art. Like the sculptured figures that were made for practical purposes, African art was not intended to serve like that of fine art. As I’ve stated before in previous posts, fine art is purely for the sake of adoration. There is no intrinsic meaning or message therein. It is in a matter of words, it is art that “is what it is.”
African rock art was used to record events, mark passage of tribal rights and other ceremonial acts. There were also special meanings behind things like animal depictions that were symbols of fertility for example.
To make rock art, Africans blended red rock grinds with fat. Rock paintings were not composed with different colors as you might notice. Rather, the painter made objects or creatures in shades of the same color. African rock art was also very resilient to weather ware and age.
Moreover, these two dimensional images used fine lines to depict them. In simple terms, they were curvy stick figures.
One of the most significant examples of rock rock art, comes from the San that lived in what was then purely called South Africa. Today the area is designated as South Africa and Botswana. According to a more refined method of carbon dating it was discovered some African rock art dates back to about 5,000 years ago.
A big factor in this advanced method, called accelerator mass spectrometry, is of course the state of the rock art. It is much easier to date art in caves rather than depictions exposed to open and exposed outer surfaces.
Every continent has some form of rock art. We see examples in the Native Americans, Scandinavia which is on Europe, Asia, and Australia where the native aborigines are a fairly recognized group of people who produced the dazzling wall paintings we are familiar with.
Only in modern times, do we see a deluge of African art that is displayed on on canvas and notably on walls in urban areas. Today however there is a disagreement over what is called wall art or plain graffiti.
Most contemporary African art is reflective of relevant culture. But even today, these works of art are mixed with long past ideas of composition. One big difference between ancient African rock art of long ago and the present is the use of rich color and fine detail. There is also an abstract tenor to these paintings.
So there you have it; a brief but concise narration of the sole method of ancient African painting. I hope this was informative and enlightening. If only we could own pieces of rock art of every sort and geographic area.
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