Tag Archives: african sculpture

Africa arts odyssey



Carved African terracotta pot -

 Carved African terracotta pot

Art is an integral feature in defining a culture and all the mysteries, diversity and complexities of Africa can be found in their artistic expression. Terracotta sculptural figures and heads were discovered from the Nok culture of Nigeria dating back to 500 BC and they demonstrated a strong abstract figural interpretation in their art. The Kongo people and the Sherbro from Sierra Leone were famous for their stone sculptures while the Benin were known for their ivory carving. The origin of the bronze casting tradition began with the Igbo-Ukwu tribe of Nigeria around the 9th century AD and reached its pinnacle with the Ife people from Yoruba.



Malangatana Valente Nguenha

Malangatana Valente Nguenha


As various African kingdoms accumulated riches through trade of gold, agriculture, precious stones, cloth and other goods, the health and appearance of their rulers were considered  to be an important metaphor for their kingdoms strength and stability. Ceremonial occasions were a demonstration of splendor and power and the wealthy kingdoms were active patrons of the arts and had their own guilds of exclusive artists. Precious works of art were commissioned for personal and devotional use. The court of Benin ( Nigeria ) exemplifies this and many exquisite pieces in the form of masks, sculptures and jewelery were created. Other artists, outside the court, sometimes recreated these pieces, especially the carved sculptures, for commercial trading.
The shamans and power association leaders of a tribe cultivated the ability to wield natural resources and spiritual energies through their masks, sculptures and performances, where their understanding of plants, animals and spirituality were on display. Organic and inorganic materials such as flora, feathers, horns, porcupine quills, herbs and other elements became incorporated into their arts by adding them to their masks and sculptures.
The acquisition and maintenance of masks, sculptures, and other artistic symbols of power constituted a significant part of a specialists’ training. The artistry was usually shrouded in secrecy including the materials used and the identity of the artist, who were held in high regard for their skill and reverence.
The aristocracy and attendants wore pendants and carried objects bearing symbols of political and spiritual power. For most of the African kingdoms, the royal families and their ancestors were venerated in the form of brass cast and wood carved statues which were displayed on royal alters.



Wood carved mask from Cameroon Savannah

 A mask from Cameroon Savannah – Bamileke master Bamendjo

Nineteenth century,  Rietberg Museum

 Recognizable for their imposing forms with swollen cheeks and plump, big eyes. These masks were worn on the head like a crown. They were invested with a crucial role during the commemorations and the election of the king.

African art has been a dynamic source of inspiration for numerous Western artists. The highly stylized treatment of the human figure in African sculptures had a direct input into the development of the avant garde movements of the modern art of Matisee and Picasso and the painting styles of post-Impressionists Cézanne and Gauguin. Modernist artists were drawn to African sculpture and art because of its sophisticated approach to the abstraction of the human form. Modigliani made sketches of the elongated heart shaped faces of Baule masks and this became an influence in some of his sculptures and paintings. Likewise Constantin Brancusi, Modigliani’s friend, introduced stylized elements into his sculptures. Picasso claimed that African sculptures had helped him to understand his purpose as a painter, which was not to entertain with decorative images, but to mediate between perceived reality and the creativity of the human mind—to be freed, or “exorcised,” from fear of the unknown by giving form to it.



Dogon sculptures from Mali, Africa


 Dogon sculptures, Bandiagara Hills, Mali – Africa

 The figure in the foreground is attributed to the ‘Master of the Ogol’

Dallas Museum of Art

Stylized Cameroonian Woman with beads

Stylized Cameroonian Woman sculpture with beads



Africa Mangbetu woman sculpture

 Anthropomorphic bark box, depicting the women’s headdress and cranial modification achieved by binding the heads of babies among the Mangbetu





Zimbabwean ceramic pot  livingstoneart.be

Handpainted ceramic pot from Zimbabwe –    livingstoneart.be





A staff used by devotees of Shango the Yoruba orisha of thunder and lightning, carried in dances

 A staff used by devotees of Shango, the Yoruba orisha of thunder and lightning, carried in dancing rituals.

doma wooden multiple faced Ungulali-headdress,-Nigeria,-20th-century

Idoma wooden multiple faced Ungulali headdress, Nigeria

20th century





A gold pendant in the form of a stylized head. Country of Origin Ghana. Culture Ashanti.

An Ashanti gold pendant in the form of a stylized head. –  Ghana






British Museum Wooden complex--Nigeria 20th century

 Wooden complex–Nigeria 20th century

British Museum




A Senufo seated female figure surmounted by a bowl and a bird IvoryCoast


Ivory Coast sculpture of a Senufo seated female figure surmounted by a bowl and a bird





Bonnie Ntshalishali and Ardmore

 Bonnie Ntshalishali lidded vessel for Ardmore, ZA





 Idia head sculpture Benin

 Idia, the mother of Oba Esigie, was granted the right to establish her own palace and ancestral altars as a reward for using her mystic powers to assist in victory in Benin’s war against the Igala. 





Brass weight for weighing gold dust-in the form of a horse and rider Ghana

Brass weight for weighing gold dust in the form of a horse and rider





South African- Mulondo Water Vessel,





British Museum, London An anthropomorphic soapstone carving said to be from the ancient site of Great Zimbabwe

  An anthropomorphic soapstone carving from an ancient site of Great Zimbabwe

British Museum, London




 Small polychrome pottery Ideqqi – Berbers – North Africa

Geometric patterns that adorn the pottery made by Maghreb women – found on textiles and female tattoos – carry out a symbolic meaning which dates back to Neolithic times.





Burkina Faso---Nuna storage vessel

 Burkina Faso—Nuna ceramic storage jar

Masengo-Gallery---Stone-Gallery Proetctive Mother-Patrick Fredy Zimbabwe

Shona sculpture Protective Mother – Patrick Fredy,  Zimbabwe

Masengo Gallery




Ceremonial Drum-(Pinge)Senufo

 African Senufo Ceremonial Drum-(Pinge)




Chief Aramchree by Sokari Douglas Camp

 Nigerian artist Sokari Douglas Camp bronze sculpture of Chief Aramchree






 Chiefs stool supported by kneeling woman, attributed to the  master carver of his workshop, known as Master of Buli. Democratic Republic of Congo


Dancing Figure - Benedict Enwonwu Dancing Figure – Nigerian sculptor Benedict Enwonwu

( Afro Au Go Go }


Dance mask of-a type known as Mwana Pwo, regarded as an idealised depiction of a beautiful young girl, showing facial scarifications

 Mwana Pwo dance mask, regarded as an idealised depiction of a beautiful young girl, showing facial scarification





Dick Jemison Tribal Art Collections African pots

 African terracotta pot

Dick Jemison Tribal Art Collections





Ethiopian string jar vessel

 Ethiopian lidded string jar

Old Turkhana String Jar, Ethiopia An old Turkhana jar made of twisted cord in a vertical pattern covered with hardened clay and a fitted lid. Coated on the inside with a clay-like material.





Face Mask, Late 19th early 20th-century Mali

 Mali Face Mask, Late 19th early 20th-century




Female Figure with Rooster Offering Bowl (Olumeye), Late 19th early 20th centuryYoruba Nigeria


Yoruba female Figure with Rooster Offering Bowl (Olumeye),

Late 19th early 20th century, Nigeria




Folk Art Gourd, South Africa Tembe Mozambique

 Tembe Folk Art Gourd, South Africa / Mozambique





Hennie Meyer-Afrikana Gallery

Hennie Meyer pitcher

Afrikana Gallery





Ivory Coast abstract sculpture

Ivory Coast carving of a woman with a pot

Barbier Mueller Museum, Geneva.





Large Abuja stoneware water Pot by Ladi Kwali Nigerian-circa-1960

Large Abuja stoneware water pot by Ladi Kwali

Nigeria -circa 1960




Louvre Paris- tribal art Sakoto sculpture

Sakoto terracotta sculpture – African Tribal art






Louvre Paris- Tribal Art

 Louvre Paris- Tribal Art

Denver Rand Flickr






A marionette representing an idealised female beauty, used in the puppet plays performed by Bamana youths in Mali





African terracotta head sculpture

African terracotta head sculpture





Ngady Amwaash Mask, Late -19th mid 20th century – Kuba

Art Institute Chicgo – Collections





Michael Cardew and Henry Bergen - large Bowl,-1935

Michael Cardew and Henry Bergen – large Bowl






 Marka dance mask – Mali





 O Enigma  – Malangatana Valente Nguenha




Mask for Sande-Society (Ndoli-Jowei), Early-mid-20th-centurySierraLeone

Mask for Sande Society (Ndoli-Jowei), Early mid 20th century

Sierra Leone





Mbolo Twin Mask – Baule peoples of the Ivory Coast

( Met NY )





Mwana Pwo Mask,-Late-19th-early-20th-century Congo Chokwe

Mwana Pwo Dance Mask, Late 19th early 20th century, Congo Chokwe

Art Institute Chicgo – Collections

Mwana Pwo, an archetypal female ancestor, asymbolizing fecundity and the prominent role of women in a matrilineal society.






Nok terracotta bust of a woman






Osun-Shrine-Jar,-Early mid 20th-centuryYoruba Nigeria

Osun Shrine Jar,-Early mid 20th century

Yoruba Nigeria





 Pendant Mask: Iyoba, 16th century

Nigeria; Edo, Court of Benin

( Met NY )






 Christian processional Cross, Mid-late 15th century – Ethiopia





 Prestige drinking vessel in the form of a head.

Country of Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo

( Werner Foreman Archive )





Statue in botanical gardens,-Capetown SA

Statue in botanical gardens,-Capetown SA





Terracota vessel from the Mangbetu people of DR Congo

 Mangbetu terracota sculpture vessel

Democratic Republic Congo






Bruno Sserunkuuma---Ceramic Vessel

Bruno Sserunkuuma—Ceramic Vessel




Brass head with a beaded crown and plume, Ife, Nigeria

14th-15th Century

British Museum






 Bronze figure of a hornblower, Benin, Africa

Late 16th century

British Museum





British_Museum_Carved-wooden-cup Africa

Africa carved wooden cup

British Museum





Vase Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo bottle




Bambara Wood carved statue with a face on each side

 Mali Bambara wood carved statue with a face on each side.

height 37 inches




Yombe phemba figure_

Yombe maternity figure – Phemba 12″ tall






A pair of Yoruba Ibeji figures





Zimbabwe Shona Stone Sculpture - Lady Hands


Lady Hands by Rufaro Ngoma

Zimbabwe Shona Stone Sculpture