Tag Archives: Afrocentric culture

Afrocentric Artistry




Yoruba Olumeye (Kneeling Female Offering Bowl)




Pot With-four-handles,-earthenware-with-applied-sculptural-elements,-possibly-Igbo-people,-Nigeria--ca

 Earthenware pot with four handles,with applied sculptural elements, possibly Igbo people

Nigeria  ca. 1900-24


African art motives


In many parts of Africa there is still a vital interaction that occurs between the people, their pottery and arts, and the spirit world. Originally, all across Africa, their ceremonial art had a purpose – attracting blessings for good harvests, bringing fertility, warding off disease along with natural calamities and evil spirits and lso helping make social decisions and reaching judgments. The finished products were usually subjected to a ritualistic process to raise its presence and power. Their creative instincts are still a force in producing works that reinforce spiritual concepts ranging from the liturgical art of Ethiopia to representations of the Dogon creation myths and countless other deities of worship like goddess icons of Mama Wati. Some of the most spectacular pieces are produced specifically to be presented on their shrines. While changes in religious beliefs and practices has led to the abandonment of some art and pottery forms and traditions, in other places the ritual significance of pots and art objects still endures. These pieces were formerly placed on altars with each vessel having a very specific symbolic meaning and upholding a cohesive framework for their social and spiritual beliefs. With the unveiling of more ancient pots and artifacts through archaeology and deeper interaction in Africa, the social and mystical meanings of individual pieces are being discovered. This has been aided by gleaning knowledge about the women and men who created them and the social, economic, and spiritual contexts from which they were conceived, created, and used.




African Ligbi culture mask



The African sculptural human forms aren’t always proportional and can exaggerate specific bodily characteristics to emphasize or draw attention to a particular aspect. The heads are quite often larger than the body with wide lips and geometrically simplified shapes and abstract figural forms being common. The 15th century Benin statues were graceful with tall and slender proportions and they liked to make bronze figures of their kings ( Onis) which were much more naturalistic in style.

Silvia Forni’s work with potters in several communities in Cameroon led her to the conclusion that from birth to death and beyond, pots are important agents in their social life. Lisa Aronson’s research into Vodun arts in Ghana revealed that the methods employed for building their everyday and ritual (Vodun) pots, can be understood as a visualization of the spiritual world, especially when seen in concert with the iconographic embellishment of the vessels. The Shona artists of Zimbabwe believe their art comes from deep within and that they are connected to a Pan African cosmology. Other African artists usually share a similar trait, their works reflecting a freedom and spontaneity typical of artistry rich in spirit.
Increased access to modern conveniences and utilitarian products have changed the demand for pottery in some African locations while other places are still thriving. Nigeria and west-central Cameroon are still pottery-rich areas while the modern Yoruba are prolific potters with origins that reach back to exquisite vessels and sculptures from their ancient past. They are still producing a diverse array of vessels that includes water containers, storage pots, ritual vessels and decorative arts. It is not uncommon to witness pottery and art objects being created with the exact techniques that have been employed for centuries. ( see here ).

Michael Cardew gave an excellent account of an African artist at work with his impressions of Lady Kwali manipulating clay:

“To watch Ladi Kwali building her pots by hand is an enlightening experience, quite as stimulating as one’s first sight of a good thrower at work. You realize with surprise that it is not necessary to have a potter’s wheel in order to achieve pots which have the appearance of perfect symmetry. One also experiences … the exhilaration of watching a craftsman who seems to be doing the impossible and to be always on the brink of disaster, yet is entirely unafraid, and entirely confident with the confidence that comes from a lifetime of devotion to the craft. Crowning all this, her personal charm radiates all her art and everything she does and seems to be the epitome of the deep-seated culture of Africa.”



Bronze weight from Baule region for gold

A bronze figural weight used for weighing gold dust used as a currency in the Baule region





‘Dan Tribe’, Ivory Coast,  National Geographic, July 1982,  Michael and Aubine Kirtley






Baule Mblo mask from Cote D’Ivoire, Africa





Ethiopian Omo Valley face art






African Mask from the Dan people of Ivory Coast or Liberia

Wood, fiber, metal ca. prior to 1976




Water Vessel from Chad, Africa

20th century



Kenya_Arts_Diary_Simon-Muriithi-Old-Time-Friend Simutiithi@yahoo.com

‘Old Time Friend’ –  Simon Muriithi

Kenya Arts Diary





Carved wood ancestral sculpture

Tikar, Cameroon






Djenne equestrian figure, Mali

c. 13th-16th century (terracotta)





An African Mask from the Tikar tribe of Cameroon-17inches-high





African-mask-woman holding a child- photo by David Paul Carr

“Baba Ichanga” wearing traditional gelede mask and holding a baby Sanga village, Ketou, Benin

photo © David Paul Carr




Anthropomorphic jar Mangbetu-vessel-in-the-form-of-a-woman---Democratic-Republic-of-the-Congo-19th-20th-century - Met, NY

Mangbetu anthropomorphic jar / vessel in the form of a woman—Democratic Republic of  Congo-19th-20th century – Met, NY




Vessel-for-storing-grain-Bamileke - Cameroon

Tri legged grain storage ceramic pot – Bamileke, Cameroon






Baluba round Mask




Wooden anthropomorphic cup from the Kuba people of DR Congo, Africa





A ceramic vessel from the Mambila peoples – Nigeria, Cameroon



African Baule-Mask---Ivory-Coast---Moon-Mask

African Baule Moon Mask—Ivory Coast




Ishmael-Chitiyo Reflection 39cmh

Shona abstract sculpture – ‘Reflection’ by Ishmael Chitiyo, Zinbabwe

Height – 39cm





Bottle – Ngbandi Congo

Early mid-20th-century





Tikar-mask in black wood and brass





Cavalier-Bini-Edo---Bronze-du-Bénin a man riding his horse

Cavalier Bini Edo





Chokwe Chief holding a sanza, a musical instrument of the ideophone family, with metal keys and gourd resonator.

20th century

photo: Werner Foreman





Teme Bundu coming of age ritual mask

Serre Leone





Charles Searles





Carved ebony female bust

Besmo, Kenya




Fang-Mask,-Gabon Africa - tall elegant mask

Fang mask – Gabon





African female head with crown – copper alloy





Helmet Mask (Nyachi) from the Kuba people (Kete group) from the Sankuru River region of the DR Congo Wood, pigment, copper alloy

ca. 19th – 20th century – Met, NY





John (Silver) Mbugua





Tunnel vision – Ivory Coast, Africa





Janus mask from the Markha people of Mali




African abstract painting by Kamal-Shah,-born-in-Nairobi

Kamal Shah

Nairobi, Kenya





Porcelainous stoneware vessel – Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla






Ladi Kwali – large Water Pot

circa 1960  — Height 40.6cm-16 inches




Zulu-earthenware pot with geometric motifs

Zulu earthenware pot






Malangatana Valente Ngwenya was a Mozambican painter






Mask of the ‘mblo’ group from the Baule people of the Ivory Coast





Mohammed-Ahmed-Abdalla-1935 Sudan

Sudanese potter – Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla


Smithsonian National Museum of African Art




Moses Muigai





Old Kuba mask

Artenegro Gallery



NEJA2047--PAUL-LEWIN----Deviant-Art contemporary art

NEJA2047 ( Paul Lewin)




Peter-Gwisa Shona sculpture

Zimbabwean sculptor – Peter Gwisa




Oshun painting

Oshun deity of Ifá and Yoruba




Double ceremonial cup – Penne, Africa





‘Lovers’ – Joe Joseph

Zimbabwe shona





Songye two headed wooden figure sculpture

Congo Republic





‘Angel Of Joy’ – Tabitha Wathuku, Kenya

Kenya Arts Diary 2011




Ethiopie Jump Vrouwen_Omo-Valley

Costume preparation – Omo Valley, Ethiopia



MAGDALENE-ODUNDO-1983 Carbonised-and-burnished-terracotta

 Carbonised and burnished coil built terracotta pot – Magdalena Odundo






Geometrical decorated sgraffito vessel – Nupe people, Africa





Mohammed Ahmed Abdalla

Early in his career Abdalla drew from his knowledge of ancient Sudanese practices as well as his training in England to design utilitarian pots with delicate glazes. His later forms, with which this example belongs, are the result of bold experiments with new slips and surface treatments. This porcelaneous stoneware form was coiled, smoothed and coated with a series of glazes when it was leather hard. After the glazes dried, the pot was fired in an electric kiln. To produce the reptilian surface it was then dipped in a magnesium slip and fired again.

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art




Statue-Calao-Senoufo---Côte-d'Ivoire Found-on-galerie-art-africain

Ibis? bird sculpture – Calao Senoufo




The Dick Jemison Tribal Art Collection - Birmingham Museum of Art

African ceramic pot from the Dick Jemison Tribal Art Collection

Birmingham Museum of Art





Yaure Ivory Coast mask




The End of eating Everything : animated video by Wangechi Mutu

Image from The End of eating Everything : animated video by Wangechi Mutu – 2013





Yoruba covered bowl





Anang artist, Nigeria—Mama Wati figurine

Mami Wata (Mother Water), is a water spirit recognized by peoples throughout Africa and the African diaspora, reflected in masks and figures that bear her likeness.

Photograph by Franko Khoury




Magdalene Odundo ceramic vessel, Kenya





Abstract relief facade, Zaria, Northern Nigeria.

© Bruno Barbey




Recycled eyeware sculpture by Cyrus Kabiru

Kenya Arts Diary 2014




NEXT POST  —  The Art Explorer