African art forms are functional and interrelated. For this reason African sculptures and textiles seen in static isolation in museum collections become visual objectswith different meanings than those generated by use in communities. Documentary photographs of masquerades clearly indicate the importance of color as an element appealingto the senses. It is important to note that although ceremonies are based on “tradition,” those traditions are not fixed. Rather, they evolve in response to changingenvironments. This has particular importance for the visual element within ritual ceremonies. As cloth, beads, and objects were traded, the maskers incorporated new textures,forms, and colors into their costumes. Therefore, modern ceremonies are more colorful than those of the past, since a much wider range of machine-printed patterns and cloth,dyed with synthetic colors, are now available. Color has become more significant, stimulating the eyes and enhancing emotions that are activated by rhythmic drums, humanvoices, and dynamic bodies. African “art” is not for the eyes alone.
A bronze ceremonial vessel made around the 9th Century A.D., one of the bronzes found at Igbo Ukwu.ife bronze casting of a king , dated around 12th century
The human figure has always been the primary subject matter for most African art, and thisemphasis even influenced certain European traditions. The human figure may symbolize the living or the dead, may reference chiefs, dancers, or various trades such as drummersor hunters, or even may be an anthropomorphic representation of a god or have other votive function. Another common theme is the inter-morphosis of human and animal.
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