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African art : file summary in black Africa

Summaries  and abstracts of published articles on africain art

Art and Society

Before being an intellectual pleasure, african art had to be useful to protect against dangers of nature. It was a precaution, an exorcism to survive in a world often hostile and to conciliate the surrounding forces.
An african statue of an ancestor is rarely made for the approval of art lovers, but to appease wandering souls. A fetish must be a magic, an effective sculpture in the wood. Each ethnic group has built a set of beliefs to explain the origin of the universe, the introduction of evil and death ... All the myths refer to a creator God, unique and inaccessible, he is not involved in individual human life. The problems of this world are entrusted by the powerful God to secondaries spirits that the african people try to coax them with magical ceremonies.
The human soul does not disappear at death. Ancestral spirits play a very important role.
To communicate with all the spirits, african people relied on intermediaries, human mediators: the deviners who interpreted the animist world. To resolve the problems that appeared the diviners proposed the establishment of a religion, the sculpture of a statue ...
Life and Death of sculptures: African masks and statues could be abandoned if african people considered that they had lost their efficiency, if they were worned ...
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The role of the masks

Most religious rites practiced in traditional Africa were accompanied by music, singing and masked dancers.
Apart from the times when it was used, the African mask was stored in a dedicated place. When he was old and useless, it was replaced by another. A mask was never thrown away without care: its destruction was surrounded by rites designed to send to another mask the occult forces it contained. Sometimes it was deposited in a special place to let it disintegrate under the action of time and termites.
All African masks do not have the same supernatural power. There are the "masks of women" who could be seen by all women, children, individuals not "initiates" ... The other masks, believed to contain a terrible power, were seen by men who have followed an initiation.
The wearer of the African mask became the receptacle of an invisible power. Invested by the spirit he represented, the man was no longer himself, he lost his personality, it was the spirit which acted through him.
The masks were involved in most critical moments in a village by the presence of spirits or ancestors they represented to solve problems.
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The status of the sculptor

African sculptors are following the diviners to give a visible form to one of the spirits that must be reconciled. The diviner gave all the necessary informations to the sculptor.
The sculptor did not attempt to copy nature. He tried to create a new form capable of capturing the wild energy of spirits and make them favorable to the group or person. The sculptor was using his unconscious to make a statue.
The sculptor did not work in a total freedom. He should respect the myths, the traditions of worship of his ethnicity. The African statue, the African mask were supposed to match the desires of the spirits and ancestors in order to make them accept to be incarnated in these sculptures..
The sculptor was almost always a professional with an apprenticeship.
Generally, artistic activity was a second job, minor, however, that could become a source of income bigger than at the main occupation.
The artist was aware of the religious value of his work. He was working in solitude, occasionally submitting himself to fasting or abstinence.
African sculpture is an art without sketches, without studies, without preparatory drawings.
Despite the weight of tradition, which could negate any attempt of originality and evolution, there have been artists who were able to create innovative aesthetic solutions.
We almost always ignore the names of the sculptors of the past.
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Beauty & influence of African art on modern art

At the beginning of the 20th century, the photography could relegate figurative painting to the rank of an ideal practice, unnecessary and obsolete. Western artists of the beginning of the 20th century realized very quickly that African sculpture with its free interpretations of nature, could help their art release from  academicism .
The real change of appreciation of African art, occurred around 1905 with the discovery of African sculpture by artists of the School of Paris and the German Expressionists: Picasso, Braque, Vlaminck, Derain, Matisse, Gris, Brancusi, Modigliani ...
The Cubists and the Fauves, saw the African sculpture: anti-naturalist, marked by a rejection of the details  and imitation of the real world, a response to their research of a formal release of plastic forms.
From the year 1935, African art had reached the level of elite literary, artistic ... a status of parity with the artistic creations of other continents, which were considered as “civilized”
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Museums of African art and primitive arts

The Quai Branly Museum:
The French museum of primitive art reference on African art, aboriginal, Indian, Papua, New Guinea, Mexico ...

The Musée Dapper:
Museum of African Art and the Caribbean communities, African American and Metis in Europe, Latin America and the Indian Ocean. This museum features regular exhibitions since 1986 to discover African art in particular.
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African art: fakes and expertise

A “fake" or something "not authentic" is a piece of art made by an ethnic group different from the one that created the object at the origin and / or does not meet the aesthetic canons of the object and / or has an inadequate and unsightly patina instead and / or coming out of the workshop on an African forger who has more or less roughly performed the object by using modern tools ...
Our expertise in the field of African art and mastery of the Internet allow us to buy and sell cheap, and offer beautiful pieces, unique and ethnographically interesting, very competitive for less than € 1 500. Beauty, creativity and power are present to cause emotion to those who contemplate them.
Age: An object of 1920 is extremely old. An object of the 1950s is old.
Age is obviously a factor of value, but it's not that simple. This is not the only factor to consider when making a purchase.
You can be in contact with an "old" object made for example in 1930, but that is false because it was made to be sold and to please, the "taste" of white people, adding details that appeal to the target market. It is preferred an authentic object, more recent for example created  in 1970, fully respectful of the traditions, and that has been used for worship.
A “modern” object can be more interesting if it has been crafyed by a skilled sculptor, respectful of tradition and has been recently used for an animist ritual, even with a tourism connotation, than an object clumsily carved and long used ...
Nowdays still in "remote" villages in Africa it is still possible, if leaving the beaten tracks to find interesting pieces recently performed and used for worship.
An African mask or a statue "late" for "the wealthy specialist" but nonetheless crafted on site by its ethnic group for tribal activities worth a thousand Euros. There are remote areas of Africa where animist cults are still practiced.
An old work of art well executed, dated arround 1950 worth at least € 3,000 or around € 5,000. A beautiful Yaure mask that has not "danced", No. 46, cover of catalog, was sold € 3 100 (see, for example: sales at Drouot Ferri of 17/06/2011, with excellent expert Jean Roudillon).
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