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Çigdem Kafesçioglu and Walter B. Denny

In 

Article

Jaromir Malek

Site of the ancient Egyptian sun temple of King Neuserre (reg c. 2416–c. 2392 bc), on the western bank of the Nile north-west of Abusir, almost opposite the southernmost suburbs of modern Cairo. The temple, called Shesepib re (‘joy of the sun god Re’), is situated at the edge of the Libyan Desert, in the area of the Memphite necropolis.

Six sun temples were built for the state sun god Re-Horakhty by the kings of the 5th Dynasty, but by the late 20th century only two had so far been located. The sun temple of Neuserre was excavated by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing in 1898–1901. Nearly all the reliefs were removed, mostly to German collections, and many perished during World War II. The temple was built mainly of limestone. It consists, from east to west, of the valley temple, causeway and upper temple. This arrangement is similar to that of pyramid complexes and suggests a generally accepted concept of a purpose-built temple during the Old Kingdom. A brick-built bark of the sun god was discovered near by....

Article

Peter Grossmann

[Abū Mīnā]

Site of a Christian city and pilgrimage centre in the Maryūt Desert, c. 45 km south-west of Alexandria, Egypt. It grew up around the shrine of St Menas, who was martyred during the persecution of the Christians instigated by Diocletian (reg 285–305). The ancient name of the site is not known, and the position of the saint’s grave had been long forgotten until, according to legend, several miracle cures led to its rediscovery. The place then quickly developed into an increasingly major centre of pilgrimage where, among other things, the so-called Menas ampules were manufactured as pilgrim flasks and achieved particular renown. The first excavations of the site were undertaken by Kaufmann in 1905–7. Further excavations have been directed successively by the Coptic Museum in Cairo (1951), Schläger (1963 and 1964), Wolfgang Müller-Wiener (1965–7) and Peter Grossmann (since 1969).

The earliest archaeological remains date to the late 4th century, although the grave itself was in an older hypogeum. The first martyrium basilica erected over the grave dates to the first half of the 5th century and was rapidly enlarged by various reconstructions and extensions. Around the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, the Great Basilica was added to the east in the form of a transept-basilica, making it the largest church in Egypt (...

Article

E. P. Uphill

[now Abū Ruwāsh]

Site of necropolis in Egypt, 9 km north of Giza, which flourished c. 2925–c. 2450 bc. Mud-brick mastaba tombs of 1st Dynasty nobles are the earliest buildings at Abu Rawash. The largest mastaba (26×14 m) has eight large recesses in its long walls and is flanked by eight servants’ burials on its eastern side. Two funerary boats are associated with Tomb M25. The pyramid of King Radjedef of the 4th Dynasty dominates the site. Reached by a gigantic causeway, it is spectacularly situated at a height of c. 157 m above the level of the Nile Valley. It was originally c. 67 m high and 105 m square. The 1500 m causeway originally supported a stone corridor, which, with its side walls, measured 14 m wide, while the embankment below widened to 31.5 m at its base and reached a height of 12 m in places. Most of the stone has been quarried away, but the burial-chamber pit (now open to the sky) gives a good impression of the pyramid’s former splendour. The pyramid stood in a large enclosure (267×217 m) on levelled rock. The funerary temple was never completed as designed, but a boat trench (37×9 m) lies beside the pyramid, and a smaller ritual pyramid stood near by. The easternmost promontory of the mountain range was thought by the German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius to be the rock core of an enormous mud-brick pyramid called by him Pyramid No. 1. In the 1980s the site was worked on by Nabil Swelim, who considered it to be the remains of an enormous step pyramid, with about a quarter of its mass being natural rock. He dated it to the end of the 3rd Dynasty, possibly having been built by King Huni, although other writers have suggested a later date, during the 4th Dynasty....

Article

R. G. Morkot

Site in Egypt, on the west bank of the Nile in Lower Nubia, 280 km south of Aswan. With the construction of the Aswan Dam in the early 1960s, the temple complex was one of a number of ancient monuments saved by being moved to a new site. Having been cut into pieces and reassembled, it now stands on the shores of Lake Nasser, 64 m higher and 180 m west of its ancient site. It is not known whether any small rock-cut chapels already existed at Abu Simbel, but inscriptions from the Middle Kingdom show that it was already an ancient sacred site when Ramesses II (reg c. 1279–c. 1213 bc) chose it for his most grandiose, and most famous, Nubian monument.

The construction of the Great and Small Temples of Abu Simbel began in the early years of Ramesses II, and they were completed by around the 25th year of his reign. The Great Temple (...

Article

Abusir  

Miroslav Verner

[Egyp. Per-Usir; Gr. Busiris]

Ancient Egyptian royal necropolis that flourished during the 5th Dynasty (c. 2465–c. 2325 bc). The site is 25 km south-west of the centre of Cairo and has been intermittently excavated since the beginning of the 19th century by teams of English, French, German, Egyptian and Czech archaeologists.

In the 5th Dynasty the sun cult reached its climax, and, according to legend, the first kings of that dynasty were considered the direct descendants of the sun god Re. Sahure (reg c. 2458–c. 2446 bc), the first king who established his pyramid complex at Abusir, presumably wished to be buried in the vicinity of the sun temple of his predecessor, Userkaf, which stood at the northern outskirts of the necropolis. Sahure’s pyramid was small, and its core was built of poor quality limestone. His pyramid temple, however, was carefully executed in different kinds of stone and richly decorated with reliefs, the whole representing a new stage in the evolution of this type of monument. A small subsidiary pyramid, an enclosure wall, a causeway and a valley temple also originally belonged to the pyramid complex....

Article

Abydos  

John Baines

[anc. Egyp. Abdjw]

Egyptian site, c. 50 km south of Sohag, and necropolis of the ancient city of This (perhaps modern Girga), which was briefly the capital of the newly united Egypt in the Late Predynastic period (c. 3000–c. 2925 bc). As the country’s most ancient capital, it remained significant throughout Egyptian history, becoming the principal cult centre of Osiris, a funerary deity who embodied the tradition of kingship. From the later Middle Kingdom (c. 1750 bc), the Early Dynastic period (c. 2925–c. 2575 bc) royal necropolis was believed to contain the tomb of Osiris; because of this, it was visited by pilgrims until Roman times (30 bcad 395). Large cemeteries continued to accumulate, and they were characterized in the latest period by a distinctive Greco-Egyptian type of stele. These merged Egyptian and Classical styles with a largely Egyptian decorative repertory and were increasingly inscribed in Greek. Thus for two millennia Abydos was an important centre of non-royal art, as well as the location of major temples....

Article

Simon Njami

(b Contou, 1942).

Beninois installation artist. He studied law in France, and it was not until he returned to Benin in 1971 that he became an artist, by accident. Considered mad by his family, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital a few times before encountering Jean Michel Rousset, a young Frenchman who reassured him about his talent. In his compound Adaeagbo creates an ever-changing assemblage of found materials: sculptures, stones, clothing, newspapers. New materials are added, and old objects are rearranged. These creations function as historical documents of his times, as well as of particular days, as he works each day after his walks. His work has been described as reflecting and evoking the ‘madness in words’: the inability to understand words, and the conflicts that arise from this lack of understanding. It can also be seen as a comment on his own life and the suffering of a misunderstood artist. In Adaeagbo’s smaller pieces, objects are combined with a greater emphasis on symbolic intent than aesthetic concerns. He has exhibited at the Institut Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (...

Article

Bolaji V. Campbell

[Adenake, A. O.]

(b Idanre, April 27, 1954).

Nigerian painter. He received his BA from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1974), and his MFA from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1982), where he trained with Uche Okeke and Obiora Udechukwu. Udechukwu's influence can be seen in Adenaika's use of uli, akika and nsibidi motifs (see under Ejagham and Africa §V 3.). He inflected these designs with Yoruba characteristics and used them to reflect current issues as well as depict folktales. He is a third-generation Nsukka painter (see Nigeria, Federal Republic of §V) and one of the first non-Igbo uli artists. The watercolours he uses are an ideal medium because their fluidity matches the flow of uli line. In the 1990s he was artistic director of an advertising agency in Enugu, and he has served as art editor for the journal Okike, as well as designing book covers.

‘The Influence of Uli Art on Contemporary Nsukka School Painting’, ...

Article

Kristina Borrman

(b Dar es Salaam, Sept 22, 1966).

British architect of Tanzanian birth and Ghanaian descent. David Adjaye’s projects span a wide range of architectural categories including residential buildings, retail spaces, civic buildings, and art installations. After establishing his own practice in 2000, Adjaye’s work inspired critics and historians to consider his buildings in terms of their carefully considered spatial relationships to their sites, the intense multi-sensory experiences they offer users, and their interrogation of architecture’s ability to communicate ideas concerning place, identity, and symbolic value.

David Adjaye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1966. As the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye was already well travelled by the age of 13, having resided in the Middle East and Africa before moving to London. In 1986 Adjaye received his diploma in art and design from Middlesex College. Two years later he secured a job with the offices of Chassay Architects in London while concurrently studying for his architecture BA at Southbank University. The programme at Southbank structured Adjaye’s studies to prepare him for the three-part Royal Institute of British Architects Examinations, the successful completion of which officially deemed Adjaye a fully qualified architect in ...

Article

Africa  

Jeremy Coote, John Middleton, David W. Phillipson, Paul Richards, Jan Vansina, and S. J. Vernoit

Continent second only to Asia in size with a total area of 29,800,000 sq. km and a total population of 628 million (UN estimate, 1989). This survey focuses on the art traditions of Sub-Saharan Africa (i.e. south of the Sahara Desert), especially those of pre-colonial times as they continued into colonial and post-colonial times. It should be noted here that, while the major interest of scholars has been the study of unacculturated traditions, the fieldwork that makes such studies possible has been conducted many years, even centuries, after the time of first European contact. Furthermore, the notion of 'Sub-Saharan' Africa as a cultural entity, although still useful, is to some extent an arbitrary generalization: there has been both a high degree of internal diversity within the continent and much greater economic and political exchange between Africa and the outside world than was previously thought. Africa in the late 20th century comprises more than 50 independent nation states (...

Article

Paul Oliver

Discussion of African architecture is beset with problems of definition, scope, timespan and identity. North Africa may be seen as part of the Middle East, coastal East Africa as part of Arabian culture and South African cities as part of a Western cultural tradition. Much of the eastern and southern parts of the continent were only settled by Bantu-speaking peoples comparatively recently; Trans-Saharan trade, Islamic jihads and Fulani migrations in the western Sudan have all influenced architecture; while European colonization and subsequent national independence have also affected building types, methods of construction and settlement patterns. (see also Africa).

This survey is concerned principally with the architecture of Sub-Saharan Africa, although reference is also made to northern, eastern and Saharan regions. Archaeological study of all but the largest sites in Africa is in its infancy, and information on the architecture of African cultures is often fragmented and unsystematic where it exists at all. Future studies may well change substantially the picture presented here....

Article

Diane M. Pelrine

African craftsmen have made many types of refined and elaborate weapons, including bows and arrows, knives, swords, spears, axes, clubs and firearms as well as a peculiarly African weapon, the throwing knife. Many of these are notable for their fine proportions, shapes and workmanship but still remain functional, while others may be elaborated or embellished to the extent that they can no longer serve the original purpose of their type, becoming instead identifying emblems and often serving as symbols of leadership and prestige. This is increasingly the case as weapons incorporating Western technology become more prevalent. Particularly in Central Africa, knives and other weapons were traded extensively, sometimes serving as forms of currency. This has made it difficult, if not impossible, in many instances to identify a specific form with a single ethnic group. One example is the throwing knife, designed to be thrown at human or animal targets and with an effective range of 20–30 m. This consists of a stem, which serves as the handle and is usually covered with fibre or skin, and two or more branching blades. This multi-bladed design is unique and has allowed for an astonishing variety of shapes. Throwing knives are common over a wide area from Sudan to Gabon and the Zaïre River basin and are the African weapon most likely to be collected by Westerners....

Article

Henry John Drewal and Philip L. Ravenhill

The art-historical and aesthetic categories applied to African art are in a constant state of flux. The history of their usage has been dogged by misapprehensions and misrepresentations, although this is hardly surprising, given that they often represent the inappropriate application of Western intellectual and aesthetic concepts. This article provides an overview of the history of scholarly research into and discussion of African art and in particular figure sculpture (see §1 below), followed by an account of the vast increase in studies of indigenous systems of aesthetic evaluation since the 1960s (see §2 below) (see also Africa).

The perception and identity of African art in universal art history are profoundly marked by two categories of art objects: wooden masks and figurative sculpture. In 1926 Paul Guillaume and Thomas Munro in Primitive Negro Sculpture went so far as to present a map of 'The Country of Negro Art' that drew a closed line around the regions of West and Central Africa and effectively limited African art to the mask and figurative art traditions that characterize these regions. Truly, however, the importance of figurative art to an understanding of African art history cannot be overestimated. ...

Article

The study of African art history has roots in the older field of cultural anthropology, which is primarily concerned with material culture rather than art. Most of the literature before 1960 falls into this category, and even today African art research still draws extensively on ethnography, history and archaeology (see also Africa: Art and aesthetics, §1). Serious study of the subject, therefore, remains dependent on libraries with strong collections in these fields.

Museums of ethnography, which were concerned with material culture and had colonial connections, sprang up in Europe during the late 19th century (see Africa: Museums). They built library collections to support curatorial research and often also served as repositories for photographs, manuscripts and other official records. These institutions, such as the Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin, the British Museum, London, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, the Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, Tervuren, and the Musée de l'Homme, Paris, grew into significant research collections that remain only partially tapped. Although many are underfunded and their libraries are not being actively developed, their historical material makes them a critical group of repositories. In the United States libraries and photo-archives with extensive African material were developed by such institutions as the ...

Article

The African diaspora is principally a result of the slave trade, in the course of which millions of Africans were deported to the Americas and elsewhere. On a smaller scale, many other factors have contributed to the presence of active African cultural traditions outside Africa itself. This article discusses African art as retained, modified or blended with local traditions world-wide.

Because African cultures have been misrepresented, many people, including many African Americans, believe that the slaves came from cultures so 'primitive' that they had nothing worth bringing to the New World and even welcomed Western technology as superior. Scholars have attempted to remedy this situation by showing the strength, beauty and complexity of African cultures so long denigrated in order to justify slavery. Anthropological and historical research has brought to light ample evidence of just how much of their intellectual and aesthetic traditions the enslaved Africans were able to preserve and transport intact and to re-establish in the New World. With little privacy and less power, the Africans managed to retain both those aspects of their cultures that their masters did not know or care about (i.e. religious beliefs, medical practices and folklore) and those which their masters needed or enjoyed (i.e. tool- and weapon-making, woodworking, weaving and other textile arts, narrative, music, dance and cuisine). Furthermore, it has become apparent that some of the slaves knew more about tropical agriculture than did their masters, while others possessed technical and artistic skills comparable to or surpassing those of their European counterparts....

Article

Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

The coming of Islam to West Africa brought a need for and appreciation of manuscripts written in Arabic script. The first manuscripts read there were imported, mostly from Morocco, but manuscripts soon began to be produced locally, perhaps by the 16th century and certainly by the 17th. By the 18th and 19th centuries Arabic manuscripts were so common that it is possible to speak of a distinctive West African style. These written documents, many preserved in local libraries in Timbuktu and other centres and still relatively unknown, cover a variety of subjects ranging from history and science to literature. The finest in terms of both quality of materials and carefulness of execution are copies of the Koran, of which several dozen are known.

These Koran manuscripts typically comprise 400–500 separate sheets of hand-trimmed paper (each page approx. 230×170 mm). The paper was imported, often watermarked with the tre lune used by the firm of Andrea Galvini in Pordenone, Italy. The text is transcribed in a distinctive script sometimes dubbed ...

Article

Cornelius O. Adepegba and Joanne B. Eicher

In Africa body arts, an integral part of dressing the body, are widely varied and include both permanent and temporary modifications of the body’s contours and surface (see also Africa: Dress). The head, neck, hair, teeth, nose, ears, lips, trunk and limbs may all be decorated or in some way altered for aesthetic or ritual purposes. Evidence of the antiquity of some of these body arts can be seen in Saharan rock art of c. 5000 bc, in Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from c. 1800 bc, and in Nok terracotta sculpture (c. 500 bcad 200) and Igbo–Ukwu metalwork (c. ad 900) from Nigeria. The sculptural traditions of the more recent past often provide rich documentation of body arts practices. Although Euro-American practices and cosmetics are now employed in Africa, local customs of dressing the hair and painting, scenting, oiling, tattooing or cutting the skin continue to be performed in many areas and contexts....

Article

revised by Lin Vivian Barton

The earliest private collections of African art were those of European royalty and nobility, whose cabinets of curiosities preserved exotica brought back from overseas travels. The 19th century was marked by the acquisition of ethnographic objects either as scientific specimens, war trophies, or curiosities, which found their way into museum collections. Early dealers in ethnographic objects and curios, such as W. D. Webster in Oxford or William O. Oldman in London, sold what would today be called art.

African art as a category of objets d'art has been defined largely by collectors, dealers, critics, and artists, whose tastes and preferences restricted it almost exclusively to figural sculpture and masks. Modern collecting began in Paris in the early 20th century, with sculptures from the French colonies. Dan/Wobé masks, Baule and Fang figures, Mpongwe white-faced masks, and Kota reliquaries began turning up in studios of artists and other Left Bank cognoscenti and in the few art galleries that catered for collectors. Negrophilism in Paris in the 1920s fuelled this passion for ...

Article

There is considerable documentary information regarding the means of exchange used by traders in Africa. The caravans of the Egyptian Cosmas Indicopleustes, for example, trading in the early 6th century ad, bought gold on the Upper Nile with iron and salt, which were used in commercial transactions until the 20th century. Other commercial arrangements included troc muet (Fr.: ‘silent barter’), in which the two parties did not meet, but each in turn left his merchandise in a prearranged spot, although no description of the rules governing such arrangements has survived.

Local currencies, including red cloth and pieces of iron, are mentioned in medieval documents (including Arabic, Jewish and Italian). These sources more usually refer, however, to their authors’ own monetary systems, even where these had no validity in the place where the transaction occurred. The Arabs introduced not only the dinar but also the mitkal, which was the equivalent of the dinar in weight, and they must also have introduced the use of ...