African Art in general, are works of art created by historical or contemporary African artists living south of the Sahara. The artists belong to a wide variety of cultures from Africa, and everyone is characterized by its own language, traditions, and artistic forms. Although the large Sahara is a natural border within the continent, evidence has shown that there are a lot of influences through trade routes that covered the continent from early times. Also, research has pointed to constant influence of sub-saharan African arts and cultures on northern African areas closer to the Mediterranean.
Egypt, one of the most popular of African civilizations, can also be seen as having important ancient artistic and cultural similarities with sub-saharan African civilizations.
The arts of Africa highlight the rich histories, philosophies, religions and societies of the people who live there on this big continent. African artworks, in addition to their significance to the peoples who produced them, also have inspired some of the most important artistic tradition emerging in Europe and here in America in the modern era.
American artist of this century have admired both African artists’ on abstraction and their freedom from naturism. The history of art in Africa covers many centuries. Among the most ancient of these arts are the rock paintings and engravings from Tassili and Ennedi in the Sahara (6000BC-1st century AD.) Other examples of early arts include the terra-cota sculptures modeled by Nok artists in central Nigeria between 500BC and AD200, the decorative bronze works of Igbo Ukwu (9th-10th century AD), and the great bronze and terra-cota sculptures from Ife (12th-15th century.
AD). Early viewers assume that they must have been of classical Greek inspiration. Today rich African traditions continue, with artists working both within the traditional modes of expression and in nontraditional genres.
African artists have developed diverse traditions of sculpture (figures and masks), architecture (principally domestic structures), furniture, pottery, textiles, and jewelry. In addition to what I just said, body decoration (coiffure and cicatrization, or decorative scarring) and painting (on building, textile and human surfaces) are also part of the African artistic heritage.
The most commonly used materials include wood, fiber, metal (especially bronze, iron, gold), ivory, clay, earth, and stone. The forms of representation within each artist vary from naturalism to general abstraction, with art styles conforming to the aesthetic tradition made within a certain cultural area. In African art, considerable concern is given both to the maintenance of traditional artistic forms within a culture and to the encouragement of creativity and innovation within the parameters of each artistic tradition.
African artists generally work as specialists, receiving there training from established artists living in the community or wider area. In some old kingships, such as that of Benin in Nigeria, active guild systems controlled the training of young artists. Among the nearby Yoruba, important schools of artists were developed at local family compound centers. Often the artistic profession was seen as heredity, with talent being passed from generation to generation, and with creativity and success often linked to a divine ancestral endowment. Among the Dogon and Bambara (or Bamana) of Mali, for this reason sculptors were all selected from an ancient endogamous (intermarried by custom) group of blacksmiths. The place of work and the materials employed were also important to the artist during the creative process. Often these were controlled by religious proscriptions.
The influence of African art on me is a kind of strong one because today so many things are influenced by African art. As for the clothes I wear a lot of the design are influenced from African paintings or patterns that some one has seen one time or another. A lot of times people don’t think about it, but the letters you might see on a sign or on the side of building in it’s nice colors and designs are African oriented in the designs I mean. So in a way I am influenced by African art in many ways and less in some ways.