The Great African Art
The Global Influence Of African Art
To understand the influence of African art in the rest of the world, one has to consider the influences on the African artists themselves. These can be summed up in the vast diversity of geography, religion, language and socio-political conditions, often observed within one country, or at least the countries we know today. Historically it was more a question of different tribes, different societies and the importance of the artists within these societies that influenced the evolution of African art.
It was largely due to the Atlantic slave trade between the 16th and 19th centuries that ensured the distribution of an estimated 12 million people between the United States, Brazil and Europe which brought African art to the rest of the world. This influenced a number of major European art movements as well as elements of the American artistic influence. Where the former was becoming increasingly saturated and void of new ideas, the latter’s exposure and absorption of African art was inevitable as the cultures merged.
Today we’re able to identify traces of African art from the north and the west of the continent in art classified as cubism, fauvism and even expressionism. The American market incorporated traditional basket weaving, sculpting styles and a host of other African art influences into its artistic culture.
The African Mask
Perhaps one of the most influential pieces of African art, and also one of the most well known, is the African mask. It served as inspiration in the works of many a famous artist, including Pablo Picasso’s Les Mademoiselles d’Avignon as well as Head of a Woman of which the influence was drawn from the Dan Mask, an African Mask that originated from the Dan people who originated from the Ivory Coast.
Other African masks of note include the Ligbi mask, the Senufo mask and the Biombo mask to name but a few. These African masks were worn during tribal ceremonies as well as those of a spiritual nature in which they were used as a method of communication between the living and their ancestors.
And although these practices and ceremonies involving the use of the African mask still exist today, their popularity has spread across the world and are not limited to different cultures or ethnic groups anymore. The African mask has become somewhat of a status icon, intertwined with the modern trends of fashion as well as jewellery. And if that’s not enough evidence as to its popularity within the realm of internationally acclaimed African art, one need only look in some of the most stylishly decorated houses in magazines across the globe – all of which feature art influenced by these masks or even just the African mask itself. It is after all a symbol of mysterious power, the African mask with its origins from the heart of the mysterious, alluring “Dark Continent”.