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Stephen J. Gill

[‘Muso o Lesotho; formerly Basutoland]

Country in southern Africa entirely surrounded by South Africa and consisting of a narrow band of fertile agricultural land and a larger mountainous region, suitable for rearing livestock. The total area is 30,355 sq. km and the total population 1,700,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Maseru. Lesotho has been independent since 1966.

San hunter-gatherers occupied the area for c. 20,000 years, before dying out at the beginning of the 20th century, and between 1400 and 1770 the South Sotho peoples settled here. At the end of the 20th century about half the South Sotho lived within Lesotho, where they comprise a large majority of the population. Under Moshoeshoe the Great (1786–1870) most of these peoples, along with significant numbers of Nguni-speakers, were united to form the Basotho. During wars in the 1850s and 1860s much of the country’s arable land was lost to the Orange Free State, and, in the later 20th century, overcrowding led to a steady outflow of people seeking employment in South Africa. This entry covers the art produced in Lesotho since colonial times; for the art of earlier periods ...


William C. Siegmann

Country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Sierra Leone to the north-west, Guinea to the north-east and Côte d’Ivoire to the east. Liberia has a total area of about 111,369 sq. km and a population of 2,508,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Monrovia and the official language English. Liberia lies in a region of tropical rain-forests. The staple food crop is rice and the primary exports rubber, iron ore and timber. The Liberian State was established by repatriated slaves and freedmen from the USA, commonly referred to as Americo-Liberians. The settlers, who began arriving on the coast in 1822, declared their independence in 1847, thereby establishing Africa’s first republic. Since 1990 the nation has been convulsed by civil war affecting all aspects of civil and cultural life. This entry covers the art produced in Liberia since the foundation of the Liberian State; for the art of the area in earlier times, ...



Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya; Arab. Al-Jamāhīriyyah al-‛Arabiyyah al-Lībiyyah al-Sha‛biyyah al-Ishtirākiyyah al-‛Uẓmā]

Country in North Africa with its capital at Tripoli. Libya has an area of c. 1,760,000 sq. km, extending from the south shore of the Mediterranean Sea into the Sahara; it is bordered by Tunisia and Algeria to the west, Niger and Chad to the south, and Sudan and Egypt to the east. Apart from two narrow coastal strips and the oases of Fezzan in the south-west, most of Libya is desert. The six million people (2007 estimate) are mainly Arabs, with Berber tribes in the west and aboriginal tribes in the Fezzan. The majority are Sunni Muslim; most of the old-established Jewish population and 20th-century Italian settlers left in the decades after World War II. Oil was discovered in the south in 1959, which, together with gas, is Libya’s main export. Oil wealth and the military coup of 1969 created radical change; in the 1980s the economy began to decline and large numbers of foreign workers left or were expelled....


[Repoklika Demokratika n’i Madagaskar; formerly Malagasy Republic]

Island and country in the Indian Ocean, separated from the East African coast by the Mozambique Channel. The capital is Antananarivo (formerly Tananarive). Madagascar became fully independent in 1960.

At c. 1600 km long and c. 560 km wide, Madagascar is one of the largest islands in the world. It has a diverse and original flora and fauna and sharply differing conditions of climate and environment. While the east of the island is dominated by tropical rainforest, the centre has high rolling grasslands with valley sides, many of which are terraced to assist in the irrigated rice cultivation that is distinctive of the region. The south and west of the island are mainly savannah and dry semi-desert, which support cattle-keeping peoples.

The island’s population of c. 11,603,000 (UN estimate, 1989) comprises 18 officially recognized groups, some deriving from historical kingdoms or alliances and others designated partly for administrative convenience in the colonial period. Unsurprisingly, art styles and other cultural attributes do not correspond satisfactorily with the somewhat arbitrary character of such ethnic boundaries. The largest of the Malagasy groups include the ...


Barbara Winston Blackmun

[Dziko La Malawi; formerly British Nyasaland]

Country in south-eastern Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the south and east, Zambia to the west and Tanzania to the north. The capital is Lilongwe. It became independent in 1964. One third of Malawi’s total area of c. 118,500 sq. km is covered by Lake Malawi. The mountainous country has a sub-tropical climate, and its natural vegetation ranges from tropical savannah in the north to thornbush in the south. The population of 8,022,000 (UN estimate 1989) comprises the Tonga and Tumbuka in the north, the Maravi (including the Chewa) in the centre and south of the country, the Ngoni and Yao near the southern end of the lake, and other peoples. Most of the population follow traditional religions, and almost 90% practise subsistence farming. While Arabs and Portuguese have traded along the nearby Indian Ocean coast for centuries, non-Africans in fact had little impact on the region until the 1860s when the population was decimated by the East African slave trade. In ...


Bernard Gardi

[République du Mali; formerly French Sudan]

Country in north-west Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Mauritania and Senegal to the west, and Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea to the south. The capital is Bamako. This entry covers art in Mali since colonial times; unlike other countries in western Africa, however, Mali produced little specifically colonial art other than architecture (see §2 below). Contemporary Malian artists have found their greatest inspiration in native traditions; indeed the poverty of the country seems to have encouraged the production and exploration of folk art forms.

Half of Mali’s c. 1,280,000 sq. km is desert, supporting nomadic herding. In the southern part of the country, a mixture of savannah and forest, arable and livestock farming are practised, especially along the fertile banks of the Niger, which flows through Mali for 1600 km. The area that is now Mali was once occupied by the medieval empires of Ghana (?4th–11th centuries), Mali (13th–16th centuries) and Songhay (...


[République Islamique de Mauritanie]

Country on the north-west coast of Africa. It is bordered to the north by Western Sahara, to the north-east by Algeria, to the east and south by Mali, and to the south-west by Senegal. The capital is Nouakchott. Most of Mauritania’s 1,030,700 sq. km is low-lying desert that supports a livestock-based nomadic existence, although there is some arable farming along the fertile banks of the Senegal River. There was much urban migration in the 1980s and 1990s, but still only a small amount of industrial development, the economy continuing to be based on agriculture with some mineral exports.

Mauritania’s early history is marked by the incursion of Berber tribes from the north, which forced the indigenous population of Fulani, Soninke and Berber peoples southwards. In the 15th century nomadic Arab tribes moving south began to eclipse Berber power while the Portuguese, and later the Dutch and the French, also showed interest in the area. The Senegal Treaty of ...


S. J. Vernoit and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Arab. Al-Mamlaka al-Maghribiyya]

Country in North Africa with its capital at Rabat. Morocco has an area c. 458,700 sq. km with coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Atlantic Ocean to the west, bounded in the east by Algeria and in the south by Western Sahara. Geographically Morocco is divided into distinct regions: the populous plains and plateaux of the west; the Rif Mountains along the Mediterranean coast; the Atlas Mountains, which cross the country from south-west to north-east; the pre-Sahara region in the south; and the high plateau in the east. The population of 23,000,000 (1987 estimate) consists of a mixture of Arabs and Berbers, the majority of which is Sunni Muslim; there is also a small Jewish community and some Christians. Arabic is the official language; about half the population speak Berber dialects, and French and Spanish are also spoken. The economy is based on agriculture, fishing and minerals, particularly phosphates. Since the 1970s the tourist industry has been a major source of revenue. Morocco’s Berber–Arab heritage (being the only Arab country that did not come under Ottoman rule), its historical ties with France and Spain (which possesses the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla) and its situation in Africa have produced a distinct cultural character. This article covers the art produced in the country in the 20th century. For its earlier history ...


Kerstin Danielsson

[República de Moçambique]

Country in south-eastern Africa bordered by Tanzania to the north, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to the west and South Africa and Swaziland to the west and south. Its eastern border comprises a 2000 km Indian Ocean shoreline. The capital is Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques), founded in 1545. The country gained independence from Portuguese colonization in 1975.

Mozambique’s total area of 784,961 sq. km includes a 300 km-wide coastal strip, temperate uplands and the Zambezi Valley and Basin, which has some swampy, malarial areas. The country has high temperatures and a monsoon climate. Of the 15,200,000 inhabitants (est. 1989), 85% live in rural areas. The main ethnic groups are Makua-Lomwe (40%) and Tsonga (24%). Traditional African religions are followed by 60% of Mozambicans; 20% are Christian and 15% Muslim. The official language is Portuguese.

Although abundant stone and rock paintings bear witness to earlier, nomadic societies, the present population mainly descends from ...


François de Necker

[formerly South West Africa]

Country in south-west Africa bordered by Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south. Namibia also has a long Atlantic Ocean coastline. Namibia became independent from South Africa in 1990. Although rich in minerals, it is a vast and arid land (of c. 824,292 sq. km) with the inhospitable Namib Desert on the west and the Kalahari Desert to the east. The capital is Windhoek and the population is c. 1,500,000 (estimate, 1990). Namibia was a German protectorate from 1880 to 1915 and subsequently was placed under South African mandate during World War I. Its status was then disputed until it achieved independence. This entry covers the art produced in the country since colonial times. For art of the area in earlier periods see Africa §VII 8..

Although the colonizers introduced new expressive forms and artistic styles, lack of an understanding of African aesthetics and a misguided belief in the superiority of their own art led to the negation of indigenous traditional art forms and the alienation of the people from their aesthetic heritage. There were a number of artists among the colonial settlers, primarily from Germany and later from South Africa. The country’s landscape and wildlife inspired an expressive tradition that continued in the late 20th century. Of the initial group, ...


Kristyne Loughran

[République du Niger]

Country in West Africa bordered by Algeria and Libya to the north, by Chad to the east, by Nigeria and Benin to the south and by Burkina Faso and Mali to the west. Niger is a landlocked country of c. 1,267,000 sq. km, of which two-thirds is Sahara Desert, the rest being savannah. The capital is Niamey. The five principal ethnic groups in the population of c. 13,957,000 (estimate 2005) are the Hausa, the Djerma-Songhai, the Kanuri, the Tuareg and the Fulani. The official language is French. The predominant religion is Islam. While Niger has always been an important economic crossroads, contact with the West began only in the early 19th century, when explorers searched for the mouth of the River Niger. The French conquest of the area began in 1897, and Niger became a French colony in 1922. Niger became independent in 1960. This entry covers the art produced in Niger since colonial times. For art of the region in earlier periods, ...


John Picton, J. C. Moughtin and Olu Oguibe

Country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Niger to the north, Cameroon to the east and the Republic of Benin to the west (see fig.). It has a total area of 923,768 sq. km and a population of 140,000,000 (2006 census). The main ethnic groups are the Fulani, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The main city is Lagos, and other urban centres include Ibadan; a new capital was being constructed at Abuja from the 1980s. More than half the population are Muslim, but there is a substantial Christian population, especially in the south. Nigeria has a long and complex history and an extremely rich art history. It attained independence from Britain in 1960. This entry provides an overall survey of the art of Nigeria from earliest times to the present day. (For further discussion of the pre-colonial art of the region see Africa, §VII, 3.)...



Pierre Haffner

[Rwandese Republic; Republika y’u Rwanda; formerly part of Ruanda-Urundi]

Country in eastern Africa, bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and Zaïre to the west. The capital is Kigali. In 1989 Rwanda had a population of 6,989,900 (UN estimate), made up of Hutu (90%), Tutsi (9%) and Twa (1%); civil war in the 1990s drastically reduced this number. The national languages are French and Rwanda. Its area is only 26,338 sq. km, making it the most densely populated country in Africa. Despite a temperate climate, the scarcity of land and the ensuing over-farming of once fertile volcanic soils have created problems of hunger and poverty. Rwanda was ruled by a powerful Tutsi monarchy until its overthrow in 1959–61 by the Hutu majority. From 1890 to 1919 the area was part of German East Africa, and from 1919 until independence in 1962 it was administered under a Belgian United Nations mandate. The legacy of this has been evident in Rwanda’s economic dependence on Belgium. This entry covers the art produced in Rwanda since colonial times. For art of the region in earlier times ...


Pablo B. Eyzaguirre and Gerhard Seibert

[Republica Democratica de São Tomé e Príncipe]

Country consisting of the two eponymous islands in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa. The total land area is 964 sq. km and the population 116,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is São Tomé. The islands gained independence from Portugal in 1975. The national language is Portuguese.

The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe were settled by Africans and Portuguese in the late 15th century. The bulk of the population were brought from the coastal areas of the Bight of Benin, Gabon, the Congo and Angola to work on the Portuguese plantations. Uprooted as individuals and not as social groups, they did not retain their cultural and artistic styles intact. The outcome of the five-centuries-long encounter between Catholic Portuguese culture and the various cultures of the Africans was the development of a Creole culture with its own language, literature, dance, theatre and folk arts. Dance, music and theatre are the most widespread forms of artistic expression; the visual and plastic arts are less elaborated....


Jutta Ströter-Bender

[République du Sénégal]

Country on the west coast of Africa, bordered by Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Gambia protrudes from the Atlantic coast into the interior of Senegal. The capital is Dakar. Under French influence from the mid-17th century, Senegal gained full independence in 1960.

Senegal occupies a geographically intermediate position, ranging climatically from the desert of the Sahel belt, through savannah, to rain-forest in the south. The population (11,658,000; 2005 estimate) comprises a number of peoples, including Wolof, Serer, Tukolor and Fulani. Senegal is noted for its religious and racial tolerance. The majority of the population (80%) is Muslim, while 10% are Christian and 10% follow traditional religions. The national language is French. Except for a small group of nomadic Fulani, most of the population are settled agriculturalists, although Senegal also has a relatively developed manufacturing sector, some mining and, in the early 1990s, an expanding tourist industry....


Wolfgang Bender

Country in West Africa bordered by Guinea to the north and east, Liberia to the south-east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south-west. The capital is Freetown. Colonized by the British in the early 19th century, the state became independent in 1961 and a republic in 1971.

Sierra Leone is a country of heavy rainfall, and its land (71,740 sq. km) consists of coastal mangrove swamps that give way to rainforest, upland savannah and mountains in the interior. The population (4,047,000; UN estimate, 1989) comprises the Mende in the south and the Temne in the north (together c. three-fifths of the total) and a number of smaller ethnic groups, including the Kissi, Madingo, Fullah (Fulani) and Krio. The last is the most prominent group. Its members live in and around Freetown, and they make up a Western-educated élite. English is the language of government. Christianity is widely practised, although 30% of the population is Muslim. Most Sierra Leoneans are agriculturalists engaged in subsistence farming, though there is some mineral and diamond mining....



[Somali Democratic Republic; Somali. Jamhuuriyadda Diimoqraadiga ee Soomaaliya; formerly British Somaliland Protectorate]

Country in north-east Africa bordered by Djibuti and Ethiopia to the west, Kenya to the south and the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean to the north and east. The capital is Mogadishu. The Somali people, who also live in Djibuti, Ethiopia and Kenya, comprise c. 98% of the population of 9,118,000 (2007 estimate). Most of the population are nomadic pastoralists, though there is some sedentary agriculture in the south, as well as a number of mercantile centres, especially on the coast. Most Somali are Sunni Muslims. The official language is Somali, though Arabic, Italian and English are also spoken.

Somalia is mountainous to the north, though most of the land is low plateau. The climate is hot with monsoon winds and irregular rainfall. The area has long had external trade links, for example with Egypt since at least the 4th millennium bc. Arab and Persian traders set up commercial centres on the coast in the mid-1st millennium ...


Ann Wanless, Anitra Nettleton, Rodney Harber, Lucy Alexander, Beverly Marks-Paton, Elizabeth Rankin, Magda Olivier, A. E. Duffey, M. P. S. van der Merwe, Stephan Welz, Michael Godby, Lesley Spiro Cohen and T. H. King

[formerly Union]

African country. It occupies the southernmost part of the continent, bordered by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to the west and east, by Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the north and by Swaziland and Mozambique to the north-east (see fig.). Lesotho is an independent enclave in the mountains in the east of the country. Geographic regions of South Africa include narrow coastal lowlands—lush and sub-tropical on the east coast of Natal and with a Mediterranean climate on the south-west coast of the Cape Province—which are bounded by a series of mountain ranges, the most prominent being the Drakensberg Mountains in the east. In the interior, covering most of the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Province, is a vast undulating plateau, which is covered with the grasslands of the veld in the centre and north but which becomes the semi-arid Great Karoo in the Cape Province. To the north-west of the plateau lies the Kalahari Desert, where most of the remaining ...


Amir I. M. Nour and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

[Arab. Al-Jamhuryat es-Sudan Al-Democratica]

Country in north-east Africa bordered by Libya and Egypt to the north, by the Red Sea and Ethiopia to the east, by Kenya, Uganda and Zaïre to the south and by the Central African Republic and Chad to the west. The capital is Khartoum. This article covers art in Sudan since colonial times. For the arts of the area in earlier times, see Africa §VII 2.; Nubia; Nuba; and Zande.

Sudan has a uniform relief, most of its 2,505,913 sq. km lying 1000 m below sea level. The terrain ranges from desert in the north to swamp, savannah grasslands and equatorial rain forest in the south. Arabic is the official language and Islam the state religion, although about 4% of the population are Christians and many more follow traditional African religions. The population of c. 40 million (2007 estimate) comprises more than 50 ethnic groups (with c. 600 subgroups), and some 115 languages are spoken. Although most Sudanese are subsistence farmers, nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists occupy large areas. Only 15% live in urban areas. Geographically and culturally, Sudan links North Africa, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Its diverse cultures are a complex mix of African and Islamic traditions, showing patterns of continuity from such ancient cultures as Kush (...


Tamara Lucas and Jeremy Coote

[Umbuso we Swatini]

Country in southern Africa, bordered on the north, west and south by South Africa, and on the east by Mozambique. A total area of 17,363 sq. km supports a population of 817,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Mbabane. Geographically and climatically Swaziland divides into three principal areas. Most of the population work on the land. Swaziland became independent from Britain in 1968. Throughout the period of colonial rule, the country’s monarchical system was left intact. This article covers the art produced in Swaziland since the colonial period. (For art of the region in earlier times, see Africa §VII 8..)

Traditional Swazi culture is based on rituals incorporating dance, music and song. The annual ritual of the Incwala, known as the ‘First Fruit Ceremony’, is the most important, as a celebration and renewal of kingship. The several weeks of ceremony involve an elaborate solo performance by the reigning king, who wears traditional dress of lionskin, grasses and feathers. There are other traditional forms of dress, such as armbands of varying colours and symbolic significance, that continue to be used in Swazi culture....