African sculpture takes many forms and offers us huge insights into the cultures and tribal communities from whence it came.
African sculpture is most often figurative, representing the human form and fashioned primarily from wood but it can also be stylized and abstracted and carved from stone. It can span centuries and be as ancient as the advent of tools and it can be as modern as right now, today, where it is lauded and appreciated as a contemporary art form
The longest surviving tradition of African sculpture is figures in terracotta. Cast metal is the only other material to withstand the continent’s termites (fatal to the carved wood of most African sculpture). But the superb metal sculptures of Nigeria, beginning in about the 12th century, are of a much later period than the first terracotta.
Among the oldest surviving art objects of western Africa are the Nok terracotta (baked clay) sculptures found in central Nigeria; these works date from 500 BC to AD 200. The fragments are primary from human and animal figures, some of which were probably attached to large pots. The human figures range in size from about 10cm (14in) to more than 120cm (47in). Patterns in the clay represent elaborate hairstyles, jewelry and clothing.
Ancient Egyptian art is five thousand years old. It emerged and took shape in the ancient Egypt, the civilization of the Nile Valley. Expressed in paintings and sculptures, it was highly symbolic and fascinating – this art form revolves round the past and was intended to keep history alive.
Kuba people in the DRC developed an elaborate culture of court ceremonials and art that focused on the king. This royal art reached its height in a series of seated wooden figures that represent each of the Kuba kings. When the king was absent from his capital, his wives will invoke the necessary presence of royalty in the palace by rubbing his statue with oil. Scholars think that most of the surviving king figures date from mid18th century.
Much of kuba art features geometric patterns, which are used in the variety of ways. This may be embroidered on raffia clot, painted on women’s bodies, carved on wooden cups and boxes or woven into mats for the walls of houses and palaces.
Pendant Mask, Iyoba, Nigeria