The Art of Ancient Egypt - A Resource for Educatiors

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Many of these individual exhibitions are listed below. He also includes a list of museums and galleries and research resources. Professor Witcombe has also produced an exhibition exploring the perception of Art and the identity of the artist through history an in contemporary society, entitled What is Art ….


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What is an Artist? Artcyclopedia: The Guide to Museum-Quality Art on the Internet The Artcyclopedia editors have compiled a comprehensive index of every artist represented at hundreds of museum sites, image archives, and other online resources. They have a searchable index of over arts sites, and offer more than 32, links to an estimated , works by 7, renowned artists. A great resource for researching particular artists. There is also an interactive timeline. The Getty Museum The J. Paul Getty Trust focus on the visual arts serves both general audiences and specialized professionals, and it offers an impressive array of services.

For instance, the Getty Research Institute provides access to a range of online research tools. The Research Library is accessible to both on-site and remote users and provides access to the Library Catalog, a myriad of collections and other services. The Explore Art section allows you to browse many of the works of art on display at the Getty by name, object, theme, or topic.

You can also view current or past exhibitions. There are also lesson plans and ideas for discussion on many aspects of art and art history. About: Art History This About. A broad and helpful site, though obtrusive ads are annoying. This site is aimed at everybody interested in art, but it has a special focus on the academic study of Art History. If you have an interest in art history and would like to find images online or to learn more about particular artists, the sites they list be of use to you.

The featured themes and topics of the collection include Colonial portraiture, nineteenth-century landscape, American impressionism, twentieth-century realism and abstraction, New Deal projects, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, contemporary crafts, African American art, Latino art, and folk art. Today the collection consists of more than 40, artworks in all media, spanning more than years of artistic achievement.

The Smithsonian Online Exhibitions feature prize holdings from different eras in American history. The online version of American Art, the academic journal of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, has articles of interest to art historians. The site offers more than 7 million digital items from more than historical collections. Included are multimedia collections of photographs, recorded sound, moving pictures, and digitized text. Select collections to search, search for items across all collections, and explore teaching and learning ideas with American Memory.

The Galleries is the entry point to the online exhibitions currently showing. Portfolios of art, architecture and sculpture arranged by geographic area or time period. Faculty, staff, and students of the California State University System created this database. AICT is intended primarily to disseminate images of art and architectural works in the public domain on a free-access, free-use basis to all levels of the educational community, as well as to the public at large. For the less French inclined, this site also has an English Version. Art Guide is organized by artist, by museum, and geographically.

The database currently contains more than 1, named artists, more than museums, more than 4, individual listings, and comprehensive exhibitions listings. For each artist there is a list of their works and where they can be found and for each museum a list of outstanding works in the collection, and other information. The site presents a selection of the works of art from each of the seven departments of the museum.

Artists search-able by name. This portal website was developed and maintained by computer and graphic art professionals. Sections include Why Study Visual Culture? Getty Center: Resources for Teachers K teachers can get reference materials, lessons, and activities from the Getty Institute. In the Professional Development Opportunities section, Looking at Decorative Arts examines furniture, tapestries, porcelain, and scientific objects; Looking at Portraits offers lesson plans, suggested questions, and activities prompt discussion and activities about six different portraits; Language Through Art helps ESL students learn new vocabulary, and practice using it by looking at and describing portraits, landscapes, and narrative works of art.

Art and Language Arts are lessons by Los Angeles-area elementary teachers that use artwork in the Getty Museum collection to teach students language and visual arts skills. ArtsEdNet includes lesson plans, curriculum ideas, an image gallery, and ArtsEdNet Talk, an online community of teachers and learners. Eyes on Art This interactive Pacific Bell site is devoted to helping students learn how to look at art. The varied program topics provide opportunities for use in non-art curricula such as social studies, literature, and foreign languages.

ARTSEDGE offers free, standards-based teaching materials for use in and out of the classroom, as well as professional development resources, student materials, and guidelines for arts-based instruction and assessment. The Teacher Resource explains ways in which this project meets curriculum standards. Designed for elementary and middle school-aged students. Portrait Detectives This online activity is for independent readers, or an educator who enjoys reading aloud.

It shows, interactively, how to discern which clues in any given portrait help to put it, its subject, and often the artist all in historical context. During initiation, artworks protect and impart moral lessons to the youths. The spiritual forces associated with this period of transformation are often given visual expression in the form of masked performances. During the initiation of boys, male dancers wearing wooden masks may make several appearances image The initiation of girls rarely includes the use of wooden masks, focusing more on transforming the body through the application of pigment.

In many African societies, death is not considered an end but rather another transition. The passing of a respected elder is a time of grief and lamentation but also celebration. While the dead are buried soon after death, a formal funeral often takes place at a later time. Funeral ceremonies with masked performances serve to celebrate the life of an individual and to assist the soul of the deceased in his or her passage from the human realm to that of the spirits image 3. Such ceremonies generally mark the end of a period of mourning and may be collective, honoring the lives of the deceased over a number of years.

Figurative sculpture is also employed to commemorate important ancestors. Art and the IndividualWhile many kinds of African art are employed in communal contexts, others serve the needs of individuals. Domestic furnishings and objects of personal use, while practical in purpose, also have an aesthetic dimension. At the same time, the artistic inventiveness and careful execution of such works clearly indicate a desire to integrate aesthetics into daily life.

Personal adornment and dress are important forms of aesthetic expression. Certain forms of textiles identify the wearer by age or status and may also convey personal identity as well images 33, Western Appreciation of African ArtThe appreciation of African art in the Western world has had an enormous impact not only on the development of modern art in Europe and the United States, but also on the way African art is presented in a Western museum setting.

The cultural and aesthetic milieu of late-nineteenth-century Europe fostered an atmosphere in which African artifacts, once regarded as mere curios, became admired for their artistic qualities. African sculpture, in particular, served as a catalyst for the innovations of modernist artists. Seeking alternatives to realistic representation, Western artists admired African sculpture for its abstract conceptual approach to the human form. Increasing interest among artists and their patrons gradually brought African art to prominence in the Western art world.

Along with this growing admiration for African art, the aesthetic preferences of collectors and dealers resulted in the development of distinctions between art and artifact. Image 36 Image 27 PAGE 29 30 As African art became more widely appreciated in the West, scholars began to study both its stylistic diversity and the meanings that African artifacts hold for their makers. African scholars are also undertaking research into their own heritage. Their sustained commentaries have led to new information and insights, providing a better understanding of the complex cultural meanings embodied in art.

At the same time, scholars today recognize that interpreting the creation, form, and use of African art is an inexact science, as meanings and functions shift over time and across regions. Some are born into families of specialist artisans. Among Mande cultures in western Africa, such as the Bamana of Mali, artisans are a separate caste from the majority farmer group.

Artisans such as blacksmiths, carvers, potters, and leather workers inherit their professions and generally marry within their groups image 6. In the former kingdom of Dahomey now Republic of Benin , members of the Huntondji family served Fon kings as jewelers and smiths for generations beginning in the eighteenth century image Other artists learn through long-term apprenticeship and study under a master artist.

The Yoruba artist Olowe of Ise, who was active in what is now Nigeria from the late nineteenth century until his death in , became a master sculptor after years of apprenticeship image Some artists are self-taught and learn their craft informally. In some African societies, artists believe they are called to their profession by a spiritual force. European-style art schools, introduced in the colonial period, also offer artistic training. Most traditional artists in Africa do not produce art as a fulltime occupation, but must earn a living through other means, such as farming.

However, some royal kingdoms, such as Dahomey and Benin, supported guilds where artists worked exclusively for the king and his court. In sub-Saharan Africa, the materials artists work with and their techniques are historically specialized according to gender.

In areas in which men and women practice the same art, such as weaving, their work is usually differentiated by technique, material, or style. For example, throughout western Africa, men weave long strips of cloth using a horizontal loom, while women produce wider textiles using a vertical loom. There are, of course, exceptions that suggest these gender divisions are not rigid. In some communities, like the Mangbetu Democratic Republic of Congo , men work as potters. Artists have diverse social roles within their communities throughout Africa. Some are highly regarded for their artistic skills.

For example, blacksmiths are generally regarded as exceptionally powerful individuals, whose ability to transform ore into workable metal is seen akin to the creation of human life. In some communities, an artist who creates powerful objects is considered dangerous or socially aberrant. His exceptional abilities are thought to be outside the realm of ordinary human behavior. Although historically, most artifacts created by African artists were unsigned, their authors were not anonymous.

Among the Yoruba, for example, respected artists are celebrated and recalled through the recitation of oriki a genre of recited praise poetry image Unfortunately, until the second half of the twentieth century, most collectors failed to record such information and therefore museums lack the documentation necessary to identify an artifact by its artist.

Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR)

Earlier studies of African art equated ethnicity with style. Today, scholars recognize that, although certain formal parameters of artistic expression may predominate in any given society, style is not exclusively determined by culture. While artists often work within local conventions of form and style, it is important to remember that they also work creatively. There may be multiple styles of art within one cultural group. Some Fon artists, for example, produce luxury objects sheathed in silver for royal patrons, while others in the same society create artifacts encrusted with organic materials used in divination images 16, The concept of cultural style is perhaps most problematic in the case of African artists who work in contemporary urban or global contexts images 39, Patrons may be political leaders or groups, members of associations, families or lineages, or individuals.

Artists can also produce objects for neighboring or foreign patrons, which sometimes leads to the introduction of new forms or styles. For instance, the tradition of carving and performing wooden masks is a recent one among the southern Bwa in Burkina Faso, adopted within the past hundred years from neighboring peoples image 8. The patron may also contribute to the appearance of the object after it has been purchased from the artist.

Image 9 PAGE 33 34Materials and TechniquesMany tradition-based works of African art are made of perishable materials and are therefore subject to damage wrought by climate and insects in Africa. Most artifacts in museums were collected in the early twentieth century and were generally no older than a century at that time.

For that reason, they have been dated from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Unlike Western art, which places a high value on permanence, many forms of African art were meant to meet the needs of only the original patron or even to serve a short-lived function. Importance was placed on the creative process itself, whether it be art making or ritual performance. The object itself could be renewed or replaced. WoodAfrican sculpture is generally made of wood, an impermanent material subject to termite or other environmental damage.

Wooden sculptures from Africa in Western collections generally date no earlier than the late nineteenth century, though some older objects are known to exist. In arid climates like the western Sudan, wood sculpture has been preserved for longer periods image 4. In such cases, the wood used for the sculpture may be dated by radiocarbon analysis, a method of calculating the age of organic materials such as wood, bone, and shell based on measuring the radioactive decay of carbon. This method is useful only if the artifact is more than years old.

Most African wood sculpture is made from a single piece of wood. Carving in wood as with stone or ivory is a subtractive technique. The traditional tools of an African sculptor are the ax or the adze. An adze is similar to an ax, except that the blade is perpendicular rather than parallel to the handle. Using an ax or adze, the sculptor blocks out a generalized form from a large block of wood. Some sculptures are smoothed and shined, some painted with locally made or imported pigments, and others encrusted with organic and other materials.

After visualizing the desired form, the sculptor selects a piece of freshly cut, green wood, which he keeps wet to facilitate carving. The sculptor supervises the apprentice, introducing him to tools and materials as well as principles of design and their execution.


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  • In the beginning, the apprentice assists only with the most basic tasks such as the smoothing of the wood surface. With experience, he is allowed to block out the preliminary form. After several years of training, a talented apprentice may continue as a paid assistant and then eventually establish his own workshop. IvoryIvory from elephants holds both material and symbolic value. It is prized for its physical properties such as strength, density, and smoothness. Considered a luxury material, ivory was an important commercial commodity in trade with Europe.

    Because the elephant denotes strength and power in many African societies, ivory is also often used for arts associated with leadership. In centralized kingdoms, such as Benin Nigeria , the use of ivory was historically an exclusive prerogative of royalty. Ivory was generally carved by the same artist who sculpted wood, using similar techniques. Carvers used a knife or adze and polished the surface with a rough textured leaf or other abrasive material. Fresh ivory, from the tusks of recently killed elephants, was more oily and therefore easier to carve. In some societies, ivory carvers constituted a separate category of artisans.

    At the court of Benin, for example, the ivory carvers were organized into a guild known as Igbesamwan and lived and worked in separate quarters. In Lega society, the ownership of ivory artifacts historically has been restricted to members of the highest levels of the Bwami association, the core political and social institution.

    Today, ivory carving is still practiced in some areas of Africa, though to a much lesser extent given the international ban on ivory trade. StoneWhile the large-scale stone sculptures of ancient Egypt are well known, in subSaharan Africa stone has not been as widely used as wood as an artistic medium. The massive architectural structures at Great Zimbabwe and the large stelae at Aksum are among the few examples of the use of stone on a monumental scale. Among those societies that used stone as a medium, such as the Kongo, the material was often associated with inevitability and permanence image Although many traditions of stone carving have not continued in the present day, some forms of sculpture are products of more recent artistic developments.

    One well-known artistic movement is that of contemporary Zimbabwean stone sculpture, which was initiated in the late s by Frank McEwen, director of the National Museum of Rhodesia now Zimbabwe. Local Shona artists were Image 21 Image 29 PAGE 35 36 encouraged by McEwen, a British artist, to work in stone, a material associated with the ancient ruins and sculpture of Great Zimbabwe, and many artists continue to produce stone sculpture today. MetalMetalworking in sub-Saharan Africa may date to at least the seventh century B.

    There is early evidence of iron smelting technology and the forging of iron ore to create agricultural tools and weapons. Because metalworking was both an intrinsically dangerous process and an important technological skill, blacksmiths were and are highly regarded throughout much of Africa. In many African origin stories, for example, the founding culture hero is either a blacksmith or introduces the necessary skills to his people.

    Iron as a material is generally thought to be inherently powerful, and is often associated with the gods image Most ironworking throughout sub-Saharan Africa involves highly ritualized practices, as the process of transforming ore into metal is likened to the creation of human life. Luxury metals available locally include gold and copper alloys bronze and brass. Indeed, at one point in history, most of the gold supply in Europe came from West Africa.

    Such metals were most often cast images 20, 22, 28 , but could also be worked in other ways, such as hammering into sheets. In some cultures, encasing a wooden object in sheet metal or metal foil was one way to maximize the visual effects of a costly material without using the vast quantities of metal required for casting images 14, The art of lost-wax casting, dating to at least the ninth century south of the Sahara, is an important one in Africa. The technique is similar to that used in Europe, but was developed independently.

    In fact, the virtuoso lifesize cast metal sculptures of Ife were created beginning around the twelfth to thirteenth century, a time when European artisans had not mastered casting on such a scale. Another layer of clay then encases the wax form and is left to dry. After drying, the clay mold is heated to melt the wax. Molten metal is poured in the clay mold.

    Once the metal has cooled, the clay mold is broken open, resulting in a unique work. Sites in the Sahara Desert have yielded terracotta objects that have been dated to the eighth millennium B. The technique of making ceramic vessels of clay is highly developed throughout Africa and usually practiced by women. Expert potters create perfectly formed vessels by coiling or molding. Potters today continue to use traditional methods of production, though some contemporary ceramic artists introduce new technologies in their work image Mud, which is clay in its most basic form, is also used in African architecture.

    It serves as a building material, either applied over a preexisting framework or used in the form of mud bricks. Mud is also used for the exterior decoration of houses, where it may be molded into relief designs or used as paint. Perhaps the most well-known example of mud brick architecture is the Great Mosque at Jenne, originally built in the thirteenth century, in Mali. The mosque is believed to be the largest adobe structure in the world and certainly is among the greatest achievements of African architecture. Pounded bark may have been the earliest form of cloth in Africa and continues to be produced by some pygmy groups in central Africa.

    The other materials are woven on looms. Weaving is done by both men and women throughout Africa, although methods of production are generally differentiated by gender. In western Africa, for example, men weave long, narrow strips of cloth on a loom that is oriented horizontally. Women produce broader lengths of woven cloth on a vertical loom. Woven textiles are decorated using diverse methods, such as dyeing, painting, stamping, appliqu, embroidery, and printing. Basketry techniques are used to produce objects, such as containers, hats, and shields, as well as in some forms of architecture.

    Paintings on rock are found throughout the African continent, the earliest examples in the Saharan region possibly dating to B. Historically, artists used naturally derived pigments, such as ocher and indigo, although today commercially made paints are also used.

    History: Ancient Egyptian Art for Kids

    Often, certain colors or materials have symbolic value image 8. For example, white clay, called kaolin is used widely throughout Africa, applied on the human body or on artifacts, to signify spirituality image Paint has become an increasingly popular medium from the twentieth century to today, especially in the vernacular sign paintings found throughout western Africa and in the work of academically trained contemporary artists.

    Other Materials and MediaAfrican artists use many other kinds of materials in the creation of artworks. Beads are used throughout much of Africa, often in the making of prestige objects. Many kinds of beads, particularly those made of seeds, shells, bone, or coral, are locally available in Africa. Others, especially glass beads, are of Indian or European manufacture and historically have been imported, often in great quantities.

    Animal hide, a strong and durable material, is also used to create objects, such as shields or items of dress. Different materials are often combined for practical, symbolic, or aesthetic effect image 3. Organic material, derived from plants or animals, may be added or applied to an object for ritual purposes images 6, The technique of covering a wood form with animal skin is unique to a part of eastern Nigeria image Western techniques and materials, such as photography and concrete, are also widely used in Africa today image Dimensions of each artwork are noted to avoid misunderstandings about scale.

    Keep in mind that many of these objects were used in certain practical contexts. For example, remind the students that the masks and headdresses are intended to be seen in motion and together with costume. You may want to view the enclosed video, which provides appropriate context for some of the headdresses. Many of the three-dimensional works of art were also adorned and carried in rituals. Please familiarize yourself with the images and their descriptions.

    Initially you might have the students view some of the images without providing information to see what their reactions and questions will be. Ask the students to describe what they see. The description of each work of art is followed by questions designed to stimulate class discussion. In addition, selected works are presented in pairs in the Comparisons for Classroom Discussion section of this resource. By engaging in these comparing and contrasting exercises, the students will discern the distinctive features of the works of art.

    As the discussion proceeds, students will become more comfortable expressing ideas about how the formal elements of art clarify its meaning and function. ThemesThe images are grouped by theme below. Select themes that are most appropriate for your group and which might provide a focus for a Museum visit. The lesson plans, activities, and discussion topics in the Classroom Applications section are based on these themes.

    Older students, individually or in small groups, could be assigned reports oral, written, or both focused on particular themes. The diversity of imagery and the skill with which they were modeled reveal the rich sculptural heritage of a sophisticated urban culture.

    The posture evokes a pensive attitude that is reinforced by the expressiveness of the facial features: the bulging eyes, large ears, and protruding mouth are all stylistically characteristic of works from this region. On the back are three rows of raised marks and two rows of marks punched into the clay. Details of dress, jewelry, and body ornament were either added on or incised.

    Our understanding of the use and meaning of such works remains speculative. Its seated pose, shaved head, and lack of dress recall mourning custom s still practiced by some in this region of western Africa. Is there more than one? What draws your eye to the face? How would you describe the expression? Rockefeller, This type of vessel has been interpreted by art historians as a representation of the mythic ark central to Dogon accounts of genesis. According to some accounts, the Creator Amma sent the mythic ark down from heaven to populate the world.

    Inside the vessel were the eight original ancestors equipped with everything essential to life on earth. They are represented in two groups of four, separated by a schematic animal, possibly a lizard. The Dogon live in remote villages, sheltered by the steep cliffs that stretch miles parallel to the Niger River. The environment is particularly harsh, and Dogon farmers struggle to provide food for their families in this dry terrain. A successful harvest is therefore a time of celebration and the giving of thanks. What details on this rectangular box suggest a narrative?

    Consider the concept of goru humidity, richness, and abundance. Given the climate and area in which the Dogon live, why would goru be seen as a blessing from the spiritual world? How did the carver enrich the surfaces of the container? What patterns and shapes are repeated? The ceremony is organized by members of Awa, a male initiation society with ritual and political roles within Dogon society.

    As part of the public rites related to death and remembrance, Awa society members are responsible for the creation and performance of the masks. Like other Dogon wooden masks, kanaga masks depict the face as a rectangular box with deeply hollowed channels for the eyes. This abstract form has been interpreted on two levels: literally, as a representation of a bird, and, on a more esoteric level, as a symbol of the creative force of god and the arrangement of the universe.

    In the latter interpretation, the upper crossbar represents the sky and the lower one, the earth. This kanaga mask was collected complete with some of its costume elements. They represent various human characters familiar to the Dogon community, such as hunters, warriors, healers, women, and people from neighboring ethnic groups. The masks may also depict animals, birds, objects, and abstract concepts.

    Because preparations are elaborate and costly, the dama may be held several years after the death and burial of an individual. The ceremony recalls the origins of the Dogon people, while also marking the end of the mourning period for the recently deceased. Look closely at the mask. Can you identify the different materials used? What are they? What is the overall shape of the mask? What forms are repeated? What could the stylized crossbars on the top of the mask symbolize? For further discussion exercises, please see Comparisons for Classroom Discussion in the Classroom Applications section.

    Each of these works embodies complementary Bamana ideals of physical beauty and moral character. The seated mother with child is referred to as Gwandusu, a name evoking strength, passion, and conviction. She is represented as both a nurturing mother and a female with extraordinary powers. Her heavy breasts hold the promise of milk for the child that clings to her abdomen. Both the knife and hat are commonly associated with powerful male hunters: their representation here underscores the exceptional nature of this ideal woman. He is represented seated on a chair, an indication of his status as a leader.

    Jo and Gwan sculptures demonstrate a range of gestures and attributes that suggest a possible link to the terracotta statuary of the Inland Niger Delta region. These two sculptures are probably not the work of the same artist, although they are quite similar stylistically.

    Their faces are thin and tapered, with large, heavy-lidded eyes, a slender nose, and sharply projecting lips. Represented as archetypes of humanity, they embody Bamana ideals of male and female social roles that, while distinct, are considered equally important in Bamana society. Jo and Gwan sculptures are cared for by senior members of the associations and displayed as part of a sculptural ensemble during annual festivals.

    Prior to 4 PAGE 57 57 their public presentation, the sculptures are cleaned, oiled, and adorned with clothing. Wood is a perishable medium subject to damage in a warm, moist climate or by the ravages of insects. Discussion Questions1. What do her large breasts symbolize about her role as a mother?

    How do we know she will protect her child? Why might you think they were made by the same group of carvers? Bamana oral traditions credit Ci Wara with introducing to humanity agricultural methods and an understanding of earth, animals, and plants. These performances featured a pair of dancers wearing sculpted headdresses, one representing a male antelope and the other a female. See video of ci wara performances on the enclosed DVD. In performance, the paired dancers symbolize the union between men and women, essential for the continuity of the community.

    The formal features of the headdress also reference elements of nature necessary to sustain life. The male serves as a metaphor for the sun, while the female is associated with the earth. Although ci wara headdresses are generally described as representing antelopes, they incorporate features of other animals, including aardvarks and pangolins. These animals are selected for their symbolic value. In this pair, the horns and long, arched neck represent the antelope, associated with grace and strength. The head with a long, pointed nose and the low-slung body are features of the aardvark, admired for its determination in digging.

    The silhouette-like nature of sculptural representation is noted for its elegant play of positive and negative space. The face and horns of both are decorated with delicate chip-carved patterning, incised linear designs, and metal appliqu and strips. The Bamana, who live in the southern part of present-day Mali, have long considered farming to be among the most noble of all professions. Although many Bamana have adopted Islam over the course of the last century, theatrical ci wara dances continue in many Bamana villages, celebrating their agrarian lifestyle.

    What indicates that the animal forms on these headdresses are not meant to look like real antelopes? Why is an aardvark a good metaphor for the activities of a farmer? What might be the purpose of combining several animal features? How can you tell which is the female antelope? What shapes and patterns are repeated in this pair? Note the shapes made by the voids as well as the solids positive and negative space. Komo association members enforce community laws, make judicial decisions, and offer protection from illness, misfortune, and malevolent forces.

    The headdress embodies the secret knowledge and awesome power of the society; its rough and unattractive form is therefore intended to be visually intimidating. The wooden structure of the headdress has a domed head, gaping mouth, and long horns. Attached are antelope horns, a bird skull with a sharp beak, and porcupine quills, elements chosen for their metaphorical associations since they provide animals with power and protection.

    The animals themselves hold symbolic value in Bamana culture. Birds, for example, are associated with wisdom and divinatory powers, while porcupines signify the importance of preserving knowledge. This material was replenished on a regular basis, endowing the mask with the critical life force, or nyama that is the source of its extraordinary power. Komo society headdresses are made by blacksmiths, a specialized artisan group among the Bamana whose profession is inherited. Ironworking is considered an especially dangerous profession, one that requires courage and extraordinary abilities to manage the potentially destructive spiritual forces released during the process.

    The headdress is worn in dramatic performances that serve as a focal point of Komo society meetings. Accompanied by bards and musicians, a high-ranking Komo member appears wearing a headdress like this strapped on the top of his head. His face is covered with a semitransparent cloth and he wears a costume of black feathers enhanced with amulets over a hooped skirt. His performance responds to petitions for assistance from members of 6 PAGE 65 65 the community.

    Through song and dance, the Komo member gradually reveals solutions to a variety of concerns that have been presented to him, from crop failure to infertility. Individual community branches of Komo, which are distributed widely across the region, gain authority through strong leadership, coalitions with wilderness spirits, and effective use of power objects. What materials were used to create this mask? What is the overall visual effect?

    What actual animal parts have been added? How do animals use these features? The sharp projections and rough surfaces were deliberately made to evoke what kind of reaction? Rockefeller Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Poro supervises the initiation of adolescent boys and provides continuing social and political guidance to its members. Members of its female counterpart, the Sandogo association, are diviners whose responsibilities include the maintenance of good relations with the spiritual world.

    This male and female pair, representing an ideal Senufo man and woman, commemorate the original ancestors of the Senufo account of creation. Both the frontal poses and the exaggerations of human anatomy visualize ideas about power, determination, and vitality. What does the pose slightly bent knees, arms bent at the elbows, and jutting chin suggest?

    Try taking this pose and describe what it feels like. Consider symmetry, scale, and style. These spirits, though largely invisible, are associated with water and can take physical form as insects that gather around a pool after a heavy rain or as a large water fowl, like an ibis. This mask has a circular face and tall, vertical superstructure with a series of downward-curving hooks projecting from both the front and the back.

    The protruding, diamond-shaped mouth with jagged teeth is pierced to allow the wearer to see. Brightly painted patterns in red, black, and white enhance the bold geometric shape of the plank. These designs refer to important Bwa ideals of social and moral behavior that are taught over the course of initiation. Each symbol has multiple levels of meaning that older initiates reveal gradually to novices as they mature. The checkerboard pattern of black and white squares, for example, refers on one level to the animal skins on which people sit: white representing the clean, fresh hides assigned to youths and black suggesting the darkened skins owned by elders.

    On a less literal level, the juxtaposition of white and black squares suggests abstract concepts such as the separation of good from evil, and of light from dark. Nwantantay masks are part of diverse ensembles of masks that represent animals, insects, humans, and supernatural creatures.

    The masks are commissioned and owned by large, extended families, or clans. The masks are used on several occasions throughout the year, including initiations, burials, annual renewal rites associated with planting and harvesting, and ceremonies celebrating the consecration of a new mask. These events are often competitive, with individual clans striving to present the most elaborate and inventive performance in the community.

    Previously, the Bwa had created masks of leaves, vines, and grasses for use in ceremonies honoring Do, the earthly representative of the creator god. Resulting from the constant interplay of people and ideas, this example of cultural borrowing demonstrates the dynamism of masking traditions in the region and, in particular, the openness to innovation and adaptation that characterizes Bwa culture.

    What geometric forms and patterns do you see in this mask? What human and animal features do you recognize? The painted designs and patterns convey ideas of social order and moral behavior. What could the contrast between black and white symbolize? Tishman, This work is part of a group of ivory artifacts created during the earliest period of exchange between Africans living south of the Sahara and Europeans. At a number of coastal centers in present-day Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau, as well as Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo, the travelers encountered African carvers of considerable talent and professional skill.

    Many of the artifacts entered European princely collections, formed as cabinets of curiosities. These works, whose African origins had been forgotten until recent art historical research unearthed them, have come to be known as Afro-Portuguese ivories. At the time, salt was rare and therefore very expensive in Europe. Local artists are believed to have been shown European prototypes on which to base their creations.

    For example, an acorn nestled inside the stylized petals of a rose crowns the top of the container, while four rosettes carved in relief surround the upper part of the lid. Two are warriors bearing swords and shields, and two are women. Above them, curving around the disk of ivory, are four delicately carved snakes that drop down toward four dogs represented in a state of alarm with bared fangs, drawn-back ears, and bristling fur.

    Although the Sapi peoples have dispersed to other locales since the sixteenth century, traditions associated with contemporary peoples related to the Sapi, notably the Baga, provide insights into the meaning of such imagery. The Ninigann are described as powerful beings with long, smooth hair and brilliant scales. Like the water spirits, the Portuguese visitors were regarded as powerful individuals with mystical abilities who traveled across the 9 PAGE 77 77 water bringing great riches, in the form of trade. They also brought danger, since, beginning as early as , the Portuguese king required that ships returning from Africa be laden with slaves.

    How does the artist achieve balance and symmetry? Are there design details in one area that are repeated in another? What surface designs emphasize the three-dimensional shapes of the saltcellar? Why would this object be highly valued in a Portuguese household?

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    Think about the materials, the appearance, and where it was made. It is believed that the people who created this object associated snakes with Ninigann, a local water spirit. Why might snakes be appropriate decoration for an object created for Portuguese merchants traveling by sea? Carved from a single piece of wood, this work takes the form of a large head and slender neck supported by a yoke with four projecting legs.

    Flat, pendulous breasts signify that the subject is a mature woman who has nursed many children. She is distinguished from ordinary Baga by her intricately braided coiffure with high central crest, a hairstyle associated with Fulbe women, who are renowned for their physical beauty. This coiffure is also a reminder of cultural origins, as the Fulbe live in the Futa Jallon mountains, the ancestral homeland of the Baga people.

    Such monumental structures, carried on the shoulders of the performer, often weigh more than eighty pounds. A shawl of dark cotton cloth, imported from Europe, would be tied around the shoulders, hiding the legs of the yoke. Performances documented in the s describe the dramatic entrance of the masquerader in a central plaza, preceded by a processional line of drummers. Despite its unwieldy size, the headdress is manipulated skillfully by the dancer, whose movements are alternately composed and vigorous.

    As the dancer twirls to the accompaniment of drums, the assembled audience of male and female onlookers participates actively. Songs prescribing proper social behavior are led by women who are joined in the chorus by men. Beginning at sunrise, the celebration continues through sundown and sometimes over the course of many days. Historically, such masks were used in dances held at planting times and harvest celebrations, as well as at marriages, funerals, and ceremonies in honor of special guests.

    In the s, the lifting of decades of censorship was followed by a popular revival of earlier art forms. Photograph by Frederick Lamp, PAGE 81 81 Yamban now appears publicly on occasions marking personal and communal growth, including marriages, births, and harvest festivals, as well as celebratory occasions such as soccer tournaments.

    What are the signs of status and beauty the Baga people would immediately recognize on this mask? The large head, eyes, and nose symbolize what desirable characteristics? Consider the large size of this headdress. What skills would the performer of this mask need in order to move slowly and then quickly?

    Look at the female features that are emphasized by the artist. What characteristics do you think were important to the Baga? Within Mende and Sherbro culture, helmet masks are carved with symbolic features intended to endow the wearer with spiritual power. Senior members of two distinct initiation societies, Sande and Humui, may have worn this work in performances. Helmet masks of this kind represent its guardian spirit and allude to an idealized female beauty. Historically, the Sande initiation process took months to complete, yet today sessions are coordinated with the calendars of secondary schools and may be completed during vacations and holidays.

    This composition of forms and symmetry creates a serene facial expression that implies self-control. The presence of a beard, a symbol synonymous with the wisdom men achieve with age and experience, may suggest that, through Sande, women attain knowledge equal to men. Directly below the curve of the beard are two slots through which the performer can see. It may also refer to the blackness of the river bottom, where the Sande spirit is believed to reside.

    In this interpretation, the ringed neck may refer to the circular ripples of water that are formed as the Sande spirit emerges from her watery realm. In Humui, a medicine society for men and women, this type of helmet mask has been used to address curative needs, especially mental illness. What might the four horns symbolize? What ideals do the facial features express? Why the beard? This title is bestowed upon one woman from each village quarter who has demonstrated outstanding abilities as an industrious farmer, a bountiful provider of food, and a gracious host.

    The chosen woman is expected to offer hospitality to all who come to her door at the great celebrations that occur before the planting season begins. As wunkirle she leads a procession of women carrying pots of cooked rice and soup and directs the distribution of the food to all the guests in attendance. Such ladles are carved as an emblem of honor for a particular wunkirle and are typically passed on to the successor she selects to replace her. Women who have been honored as wunkirle often accompany male dancers wearing masks in performances.

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    Bearing their ladles in hand, the women dance with the masker, offering gifts and blessings. This ladle takes the form of a long, scooplike bowl surmounted by a handle in the shape of a female head. White kaolin clay around the eyes and extending to the sides represents the band of white kaolin clay that Dan women often apply cosmetically to symbolize the heightened powers of sight one must possess to be aware of the spiritual realm.

    Until his death sometime before , Zlan served as a mentor to many students during their apprenticeship, establishing his village of Belewale as a major center of carving. Describe her expression. Discuss the meaning and function of this ladle. What details indicate that this ladle belonged to a woman of high status in her society? Identify the materials the carver added to the wood. Asye usu are considered to be grotesque and volatile beings associated with the untamed elements of nature.

    The asye usu are then induced into sharing spiritual insights, conveyed through the medium of the diviner. Their erect, balanced pose and partially closed eyes imply respect, self-control, and serenity. Photograph by Susan Vogel, What suggests they are meant to be a pair? What features suggest their self-control? What forms show strength and imply movement? Faletti Family, The position of okyeame encompasses a broad set of responsibilities, including mediation, judicial advocacy, political troubleshooting, and the preservation and interpretation of royal history.

    Drawing upon vast knowledge and considerable oratorical and diplomatic skills, the okyeame eloquently engages in verbal discourse on behalf of the chief and his visitors. In Ghana, Ananse the spider is the bringer of the wisdom of Nyame, the supreme creator god of the Asante, and is the originator of folk tales and proverbs. It is covered entirely with gold foil, a material that alludes to the sun, and to the vital force or soul contained within all living things.

    Prior to the late nineteenth century, linguist staffs took the form of a simple cane, a tradition likely borrowed from European prototypes in the mid-seventeenth century. The Asante kingdom, part of the larger Akan culture, was formed around under the leadership of Osei Tutu.


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    • A variety of gold regalia was used to distinguish rank and position within the court. Fante linguists holding staffs. Photograph by Herbert Cole, How is your eye directed to the spider? What might happen if the two small men move closer to the spider? What is the message to people who approach the linguist with problems? According to Asante folk tales, Ananse the spider brought wisdom to the Akan. Why, then, is a spider an appropriate symbol for a linguist? Describe how the staff was made. During the funeral, family members placed the terracotta portraits of the deceased in a sacred grove near the cemetery, sometimes with representations of other family members.

      These sculptures served as the focal point for funerary rites in which libations and food were offered to the ancestors. This example has a rounded face with protruding elliptical eyes that tilt downward and a delicately shaped nose. These circular shapes are repeated by the eyebrows, ears, and open, oval-shaped mouth which projects from the smooth surface of the face. An incised line curves around the forehead, indicating the hairline. The surface of the sculpture has been covered with a clay slip tinted black, a color linked to the ancestral world and spiritual power in Akan thought.

      Describe the expression on this face. In what ways is it appropriate to its use as a memorial? How would surviving members of this individual be able to identify her? What tells us that this head is hollow? Though small in size, this shimmering silver creature radiates strength and determination. Bulging eyes, bared teeth, black curved horns, cocked ears, and swishing tail create this effect. Its eyes, horns, and tail are made from iron, a material associated with the Fon war god, Gu.

      The forest buffalo was an emblem of the Fon king Guezo, who ruled Dahomey modern Republic of Benin from until Sculptural forms, like this example, in addition to functioning as royal symbols, also served as bocio empowered objects that provided protection to the king. Placed in palace shrines where they served as the focus of prayer, these works were given potency through the presence of powerful substances in their interiors. He tacked these pieces to the surface in individual sheets, creating a patchwork effect. The Fon kingdom of Dahomey, founded in the early seventeenth century, was an important regional power renowned for its strong monarchy, military prowess, and impressive court arts.

      French colonization and the subsequent abolishment of the institution of kingship led to the fall of Dahomey in the late nineteenth century. Endinginapointed stake,itwashammeredintotheground. Unlikethesumptuous bocio madeforFon kings,thiskindofartisprescribedbydivinersforusebynonroyalindividuals. Thecarvingsaremostoftenmadebynonspecialistsfortheirfamilymembersand thenempoweredbyadivinerwhoaddsvariousorganicsubstances.

      Thelarger,moredominantheadfacesfront,itsinscrutablegazeandpursed lipssuggestingintenseconcentration. Ontheothersideisasmaller,skull-like facewhoseotherworldlygazeisaccentuatedbyitsasymmetrical,emptyeye sockets. Thedisproportionatelylargeheadunderscoresthecentralityofphysical perception,whilethepresenceoftwosetsofeyessuggestsastateofheightened visionandwatchfulness.

      Snakescalltomindpoisonous attacks. Theresultingworkfunctionsproactivelyasadefensemechanism,responding tothevariedneedsofitsowner. Usesmayincludethedetectionofthieves, protectionfromsorcery,andthemanipulationofweather. Asasurrogateforthe individualwhocommissionedit,a bocio servesasadecoy,drawingharmfulforces awayfromitsowner.

      Thedivineraddedorganicmaterialsassociatedwithdogsandsnakesto theoriginalformcarvedfromwood. Whatarethesymbolicmeaningsof thesematerialsfortheFon? Dotheseanimalshavesimilarmeaningsin othercultures? Thissculptureistheresultofbothareductiveprocess thecarvingof wood andtheaccumulationoforganicmaterials. Canyouidentifyareas ofeach? Forfurtherdiscussionexercises,pleaseseeComparisonsforClassroom DiscussionintheClassroomApplicationssection. BorninthenineteenthcenturyinEfon-Alaiye,afamedcarving center,OlowemovedasayouthsoutheasttoIse. There,hisartisticreputation wasestablishedwhenhecarvedaprogramofarchitecturalsculpturesforitsking, theArinjale.

      Subsequentcommissionsofarchitecturalsculptureforthepalaces ofotherregionalleadersbroughtOloweevengreaterrecognitionasamaster sculptor. Hisaccomplishmentswerealso recognizedintheWest. In,apairofhispalacedoorswasexhibitedin LondonandacquiredfortheBritishMuseum. Olowecreatedthisverandapost,oneofseveral,fortheexteriorcourtyardof aYorubapalace. Carvedfromonepieceofwood,thecompositioncombinestwo classicYorubaiconsofpowerandleadership. Themostprominentoftheseisthe equestrianwarrior,whoisdepictedfrontallysittingregallyonadiminutivehorse.

      Theimageofthemountedwarriorsymbolizes themilitarymightneededtoformkingdoms. Localleadersadoptedthisimageto validatetheirrule. InYorubaculture,womenarehonoredasthesourceof humanlifeandembodyideasofspiritual,political,andeconomicpower. These allegoricalrepresentationsunderscorethewealthandpoweroftherulerwho commissionedthework. Here,asinotherexamplesofAfricansculpture,proportionandscaleare alteredandexaggeratedtosymbolizeideas. Thedisproportionatelylargeheads representcharacter,self-control,andmotivation. Eyesarelargetosuggest awareness.

      AmongtheYoruba,themostbeautifulpeoplehaveagapbetween theirupperfrontteeth. Thewomanisrepresentedslightlylargerthan thewarrior,suggestingthatsheistheessentialsupport. Thedeepcarvingstylewaswellsuitedtotheintenseraking sunlightofitsoriginalsettingjustinsideanexteriorveranda. TheYoruba,wholiveinsouthwesternNigeriaandsouthernBenin,area diversepeoplewitharichculturalandartisticheritageofconsiderableantiquity. Althoughtheynumberover15millionpeople,theYorubaembraceanoverarching commonidentitythroughsharedlanguageandhistory. Theytracetheorigins ofbothlifeandcivilizationtotheirfoundingcityofIle-Ife,whichwasathriving urbancenterbytheeleventhcentury.

      Inthecenturiesthatfollowed,numerous autonomouscity-statesdeveloped,relatedthroughprofesseddescentfrom Ile-Ife. Ingeneral,eachcity-statewasgovernedbyasacredruler,whosepower wasbalancedbyacouncilofelders. Artistsworkingfortheseregionalleaders producedawiderangeofartformsdesignedtoglorifythestatusofthekingand hiscourt. Whatideasaboutkingshiparesymbolizedbythewarriorandthewoman supportinghim? Oraretheyboth importantsymbols? DiscussOloweandhisskillincarvingthiscolumnoutofonelarge treetrunk. Inordertodirecttheirpotent energiespositively,suchelderlywomenmustbeappropriatelyhonored.

      Eachyear,atthebeginningofanewagriculturalcycle,Geledeperformances areorganizedbythemaleandfemaletitledeldersoftheGeledesociety.

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      While entertaining,andoftenribald,themasqueradesareaserioustributetothe contributionsmadebyelderlywomeninordertomaintainsocialorder,preserve well-being,andreinforceculturalvalues. Numerousmasqueradesappearin sequenceoveratwo-dayperiod. Themaskers,allmale,wearsculptedwooden masksontopoftheirheadsand,insomecases,carvedwoodenbreastsand stomachs. Thetextilesusedfortheircostumesareborrowedclothesoflocal women.

      Themaskeddancersperforminpairs,offeringsocialandspiritual commentarythroughrolerecognitionandsatire. Theelaboratelychoreographed dancesareaccompaniedbyanorchestraofdrumsandachorusofmaleand femalesingers. TheimageryofthemasksusedinGeledeaddressarangeofsubjectsrelating toallaspectsofYorubasociety. Usually,thebaseofaGeledemaskisahuman face. Thecalmexpressionindicatespatienceandself-control,highlyvalued characteristicsoffemalerolemodels.

      Theimageryabovethefacemaydepict animals,objects,orhumansthatrefertoaparticularindividualorsituationin thecommunity,oritmayillustrateapopularproverborsong. Suchimagery oftenservesasametaphor,designedtoreinforcepositivebehaviorwithin thecommunity. Representationsofanimals consumingotheranimalsaredepictedfrequentlyonGeledemasks. ThefacewassculptedbyKetumasterFagbiteAsamu, anartistwhoisrememberedforhisinnovativeGeledecreationswhichincluded movableattachmentsthatcouldbemanipulatedbytheperformer.

      Becausea premiumisplaceduponinnovationinGeledeperformances,newdesignsare continuallyintroducedintotherepertoryofforms. Oneshowsthe sculptorFalolaEduncompletingworkontheGeledemask,whiletheothershows themaskbeingperformed. UnlikemostAfricanwoodsculpture,thisheaddresswascarvedoutof severalpiecesofwood.