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[Arab. Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Jazā‛iriyyah al-Dimuqrāṭiyyah al-Sha‛biyya; Al-Jazā’ir]

Country in North Africa with its capital at Algiers.

Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, with an area of c. 2,400,000 sq. km. Extending south from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sahara, it is bordered to the west by Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, to the south by Mali and Niger and to the east by Libya and Tunisia. Geographically Algeria can be divided into three regions: the most populated region of the coastal Atlas range (including the Kabylie Mountains) and small plains in the north; the salt flats and high plateau of the Saharan Atlas range; and the desert (including the Hoggar Mountains), which comprises four-fifths of the country. Most of the population (33 million, 2006 estimate) is Arab or Arabized, although about 20% have retained their Berber identity and language. Nearly all are Sunni Muslim. Many people from the old-established Jewish and more recent European communities left when independence from France was won in ...


Marie-Louise Bastin

[República Popular de Angola]

African country bordered by Congo and Zaïre to the north, Zambia to the east and Namibia to the south. It has a long Atlantic coastline to the west. Officially included in the political area of Southern Africa, Angola is more closely linked by ancestral tradition to Central African culture. It has a total area of 1,246,700 sq. km and a population of c. 11 million (1995 estimate). The capital is Luanda. Angola consists mainly of savannah and sparse forest. The fertility of the soil is assured by a network of water-courses. The climate is characterized by alternate dry and rainy seasons. After the foundation of Luanda (1575) the port became the capital of the Portuguese colony of Angola, essentially limited to the Ambundu territory of the Ngola and ruled (except for a brief period of Dutch occupation between 1641 and 1648) in the name of the Portuguese kingdom by a succession of governors. The 19th-century ‘scramble’ in Africa originated a further conquest of land which, after the International Berlin Conference (...


Codjovi Joseph Adande

[République du Bénin; formerly Dahomey, People’s Republic of Benin]

Country in West Africa bordered by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north and Nigeria to the east. To the south it has a short coastline (c. 125 km) on the Gulf of Guinea. The capital is Porto Novo. The population of 4,591,000 (UN estimate, 1989) comprises a number of ethnic groups including Fon and Yoruba. The official language is French.

This entry covers the art produced in the area since colonial times. For art of the region in earlier periods, see Africa §VII 4.. For more information on some of Benin’s continuing art traditions, see Fon. See also Yoruba.

The territory of Benin (c. 122,622 sq. km) consists of a narrow band of land stretching from the sea to the Sahel. The relatively fertile land near the coast soon gives way to poorer soil and then savannah. As Dahomey, Benin was part of French West Africa from ...


S. R. P. Williams

[formerly Bechuanaland Protectorate]

Country in southern Africa bordered by Namibia to the west, Zimbabwe to the east and South Africa to the east and south. The capital is Gaborone. Part of the Kalahari Desert occupies two-thirds of the country. The Tswana peoples, who entered the area in the late 18th century and subjugated the indigenous San (Bushmen), make up 95% of the population. During the 19th century foreign influences included invasions by Zulus and Boers and contact with British Christian missionaries. The majority of the population (estimated at 1,300,000 in 1991) continues a pastoral way of life. The principal languages are Setswana and English. This entry covers the art produced in Botswana since colonial times. For art of the region in earlier periods, see Africa §VII 8.; see also San.

Botswana’s richest cultural heritage is San rock art, last produced in the first half of the 19th century at Tsodilo Hills (...


Christopher D. Roy

[République Démocratique Populaire de Burkina Faso; formerly Upper Volta, Haute-Volta]

Country of c. 274,200 sq. km in West Africa, bordered by Mali to the west and north, Niger to the east and Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin to the south. The capital is Ouagadougou. Conquered by the French in 1896, it remained under their control until 1960, when it became independent. Until 1984 it was called Haute-Volta or Upper Volta. Its population (c. 8,509,000; UN estimate, 1988) is made up of c. 30 distinct ethnic groups. Although the official language is French, large numbers of people use Moore, the language of the Mossi people (the most numerous group in the country); Jula, the language of traders from the north-west; or Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani herders, as common languages. The peoples of Burkina Faso can be divided into two major language groups: the peoples in the centre and east, including the Bwa, Gurunsi and Mossi, speak ...


Pierre Haffner

[République de Burundi]

Small, densely populated and mountainous country in eastern Africa, formerly part of Ruanda-Urundi. Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and Zaïre to the west; Lake Tanganyika defines its south-eastern border. The capital is Bujumbura (formerly Usumbura); its national languages are Kirundi and French, while Swahili is also spoken. A poor infrastructure and a long history of civil turbulence have made Burundi one of Africa’s poorest nations. The population (5,302,000; UN estimate, 1989) is made up of Hutu (85%), Tutsi (14%) and Twa (1%). The peoples of Burundi have lived together according to a model of social organization established by the Tutsi monarchy at the end of the 18th century, which lasted until its abolition in 1966. The resulting strong cultural unity and geographical protection enabled Burundi to resist not only the raids of Arab slave traders but also German occupation (following the Treaty of Kiganda in ...


Gloria J. Umlauft-Thielicke

[Cameroun, République du]

Country in west-central Africa, stretching from the Gulf of Guinea in the south-west to Lake Chad in the north. To the west, Cameroon borders on Nigeria, to the east on Chad and the Central African Republic and to the south on the Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The capital is Yaoundé. French and English are both official languages.

Cameroon’s geography comprises the full range of climatic and scenic variations found in Africa: virgin forest in the south, grasslands in the west, scrubby savannah with the Massif de l’Adamaoua in the north, and savannah with the Mandara Mountains in the far north. The population of Cameroon (11,540,000; UN estimate, 1989) is made up of a number of peoples who traditionally followed their own religions, each speaking their own language. Through the Arabs, the north came under Islamic influence at a very early stage, while the south was later converted to Christianity by European missionaries. From ...


Daniel J. Crowley

[République Centrafricaine; formerly Ubangi Shari]

Country in central Africa, bordered by Chad and Sudan to the north, by Zaïre and the Congo to the south and by Cameroon to the west. The total area of the country is 622,894 sq. km and the total population 2,841,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Bangui. As the French colony of Ubangi Shari, the Central African Republic was part of French Equatorial Africa from 1903 to 1958. It gained full independence in 1960. From 1976 to 1979 the country was a self-declared ‘Empire’ under President Jean-Bedel Bokassa. The country is almost totally featureless semi-desert. The population are mainly descended from 19th-century immigrants who were escaping the turmoil caused by European and Arab slavers in the surrounding countries.

The Central African Republic’s best-known artist was the self-taught painter Clément-Marie Biazin (1924–81). Biazin left home at the age of 22, returning to Bangui only after 20 years of travelling throughout Central, West and East Africa. In the 15 years in which he was active as a painter Biazin completed between 500 and 600 works. Jean Kennedy describes his paintings as ‘spirited mandala-like panels framed by decorative linear patterns that give them the look of embroidery’ (Kennedy, p. 153). Biazin was the subject of a documentary by the French film maker ...


[République du Chad]

Country in north-central Africa, bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, Cameroon and Central African Republic to the south and Niger and Nigeria to the west. Chad became independent in 1960. The capital is N’Djamena (formerly Fort Lamy). Chad has a sparse population of 5,538,000 (UN estimate, 1989) in its area of c. 1,284,000 sq. km. French and Arabic are the official languages, but more than 100 other languages and dialects are spoken by the diverse population. Islam is dominant in the north and east and in most major towns, while in the south there are also some Christian communities as well as those following traditional African religions. The climate ranges from full desert in the north to savannah in the south. The majority of the population pursues nomadic herding or subsistence agriculture. The area of Chad was occupied by a number of peoples and civilizations before coming under French control in ...


Daniel J. Crowley

[République du Congo, formerly Moyen-Congo]

Country in Central Africa bordered by the Central African Republic to the north, the Angolan enclave of Cabuda to the south, Zaïre to the east and Gabon to the west, where there is also a short Atlantic coastline. It occupies 342,000 sq. km and has a population of 1,941,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Brazzaville, and the country is sometimes known as Congo–Brazzaville. Congo became a member state of France in 1958, before gaining full independence in 1960. The People’s Republic of Congo was under communist rule until 1990, since when a new constitution has been put into effect. About half the population are of the Kongo ethnic group, who also live in Zaïre and Angola, and another 20% are the Teke, famed for their traditional sculpture. This entry covers the art produced in Congo since colonial times. For earlier art of the area see Africa §VII 6....


Philip L. Ravenhill

[Ivory Coast]

Country in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea, bordered by Liberia and Guinea to the west, Mali and Burkina Faso to the north and Ghana to the east. Côte d’Ivoire, formerly a descriptive name for part of the Western African coast known as a source of ivory, was a French colony from 1893 until its independence in 1960. Since 1983 its capital has been Yamoussoukro, though the former capital Abidjan continues to be the country’s most important city. This entry covers the art produced in Côte d’Ivoire since colonial times. For art of the region in earlier periods see Africa, §VII, 4. See also Akan, Akye, Baule, Dan, Guro, Lobi and Senufo.

With an area of some 322,463 sq. km, the southern region of the country is forest, and the northern region is open savannah. Between the two is an area of wooded savannah, which in its central part descends nearly to the coast—the so-called Baule V, between the Bandama and Comoé rivers. The population (...


[Jibuti; Arab. Jumhūriyya al-Jibuti; formerly French Somaliland (1896–1967), French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (1967–77).]

Country on the north-east coast of Africa, bordered by Eritrea to the north, by Ethiopia to the west and south-west, and by Somalia to the south. Djibuti gained independence in 1977. The official languages are French and Arabic. About 89% of the total land area of c. 22,000 sq. km is desert. Most of the population live in the capital and port of Djibuti city with the remainder following a nomadic way of life. This entry covers the art produced in Djibuti since colonial times. (For art of the region in earlier periods see Africa §VII 2..)

Djibuti city was founded in 1888 and doubled in size between 1896 and 1899. During this period there was much building in the colonial style: streets were also laid out. The port, which handles about half of Ethiopia’s trade, is the basis of the country’s economy. The population (395,000; UN estimate, 1989...


[Arab. Jumhūriyya Miṣr al-‛Arabiyya.]

Country in North Africa extending into Asia at the south-eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, with its capital at Cairo. It is bounded in the west by Libya, in the south by Sudan and in the east by the Gaza Strip, Israel, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Although its total area is over one million sq. km, this is largely desert; the cultivated and settled part, the Nile Valley and Delta and the oases, is only a quarter of the country’s area. (For a description of its geography see Egypt, ancient, §I, 1.) It is the most populous state in the Arab world, with more than 80 million people (2007 estimate). Traditionally the majority have been fellahin, peasant farmers; despite massive rural migration to the towns, about half the working population is still engaged on the land. The majority are Sunni Muslim and perhaps 10–15% are Copts, the largest Christian minority. Many Jews emigrated in the 1940s and 1950s. At the beginning of the 20th century there were over 100,000 Europeans, but many left in the 1960s....


Daniel J. Crowley

[República de Guinea Ecuatorial; formerly Spanish Guinea.]

Country in West Africa consisting of the island of Biogo (formerly Macias Nguema Biyoga; Fernando Po(o)) in the Bight of Biafra, Pagalu Island (formerly Annobon) in the Gulf of Guinea, the Corisco Islands (Corisco, Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico) and Rio Muni, a square area on the mainland between Cameroon and Gabon. The total area of the country is 26,051 sq. km and the total population 341,000 (UN estimate, 1989). The capital is Malabo (formerly Santa Isabel) on the island of Biogo; it is an attractive port city, with Spanish-style plazas with churches, situated on the slanting base of a huge volcano, Mt Malabo. The territories of modern Equatorial Guinea were formerly Spanish colonies. They were constituted as two provinces of Metropolitan Spain in 1960 and became independent in 1968. The anglicized creole population compete with the local Bubi people for the coffee wealth of Biogo, while the Fang dominate Rio Muni and the surrounding areas of Gabon and Cameroon....



D. Francine Farr

[République Gabonaise]

Country on the Atlantic coast of western equatorial Africa, bordered by Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon to the north and by the Republic of Congo to the east and south. Gabon became independent in 1960. Its capital is Libreville and French is the national language.

Gabon’s heavy rainfall and warm temperatures mean that much of the country’s total area of c. 267,667 sq. km is covered by tropical rainforest. Its population (c. 1,113,000; UN estimate, 1989) is increasingly concentrated in urban areas, leaving the interior plateau sparsely inhabited. Pygmies occupied the dense Gabonese rainforest from c. 5000 bc, followed by migrating Bantu-speaking peoples from c. ad 1000. The first European contact was made in the 1470s by Portuguese maritime explorers, and slaves and ivory were major exports until the mid-19th century. European merchants, missionaries and officials established permanent settlements, and the Fang peoples began a migration from their homeland near Cameroon to these commercial centres. By the 1880s the country was one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, becoming the French Congo in ...


Deborah A. Hoover

[Republic of]

Country in West Africa. Except for its western Atlantic coast, the Gambia is completely surrounded by Senegal. Of its total area of 11,295 sq. km, one fifth comprises the River Gambia and the rest river flats. The capital is Banjul (formerly Bathurst). The Gambia gained its independence from Britain in 1965. Each of the five major ethnic groups found in the Gambia also inhabits Senegal. The largest group, the Mandingo, comprises almost half the population. Traditionally agriculturalists, they live in the central part of the country. The Wolof are the largest group in Banjul and along the Atlantic coast. They are primarily merchants and traders. Fula herdsmen dominate the eastern section of the country. Jolas live to the south, and Serahuli traders are found throughout the country. Over 90% of the population is Muslim, although many also follow traditional African religions. The British settlement in the Gambia consisted of a small mercantile community around Banjul. Despite the colonial presence, most of the Gambia remained relatively unchanged into the 20th century. The bonds of village life were maintained by a highly structured society, stratified by castes and age-groups. This entry covers the art produced in the area since colonial times. For the art of the region in earlier periods, ...


Kojo Fosu

[formerly the Gold Coast]

Country in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea, bordered by Côte d’Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north and Togo to the east. The capital is Accra. Ghana became independent in 1957. English is the language of government, while Ahan and Ewe are also national languages.

The south of Ghana is situated on a narrow coastal plain, while the north comprises tropical forest and savannah. The total land area is about 240,000 sq. km.

By the 14th century ad most of the major ethnic groups that constitute the present population of 14,753,900 (UN estimate, 1990) had settled in various parts of the country and had formed independent city states with distinctive artistic cultures. These states unsuccessfully combated Arab and European cultural encroachments and were brought together as a British colony during the last quarter of the 19th century. Little unity was achieved, resulting in a cultural division into Muslim north and Christian south. The attainment of independence rekindled national pride, and it was accompanied by a revival of indigenous cultural traditions. Ghanaian craftsmen have continued to produce such traditional products as carved wooden figures, miniature brass sculptures, terracotta statues, brightly woven kente cloth ...


Frederick Lamp

[République de Guinée]

Country in West Africa on the Atlantic coast, bordered by Guinea-Bissau and Senegal to the north, Mali to the north and east, Côte d’Ivoire to the east and south and Liberia and Sierra Leone to the south. The capital is Conakry. A French colony from 1891, Guinea became independent in 1958. A Marxist government subsequently came to power but was overthrown in a military coup in 1984. The population of 6,706,000 (UN estimate, 1989) comprises mainly Fula, Malinke and Susu peoples. The language of government is French. The country covers 245,857 sq. km, and the geography is varied and includes coastal marshlands, savannah, high mountains and forests. Guinea is rich in mineral resources, and this has encouraged industrial development; agriculturally, the country is less developed.

The area was settled early and became the political centre of the Mali Empire of the Malinke (Manding; 13th–15th centuries), with its capital at ...


Eve L. Crowley

[Repûblica da Guiné-Bissau; formerly Portuguese Guinea]

Country in West Africa. It is bordered by Senegal to the north, Guinea on the east and south and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The capital is Bissau and the national language Portuguese. It includes within its territory of only 36,125 sq. km the Bijagós Archipelago and a string of coastal islands. The mainland territory comprises coastal swamps and rain-forests that slope upward to become heavily forested interior plains and then typical savannah. The hot climate receives all of its annual rainfall between December and May and supports the largely agricultural economy.

Although the Portuguese arrived in the mid-15th century and, because of the slave trade, maintained colonies thereafter, Guinea-Bissau did not formally become a Portuguese colony until 1879. In 1951 it was declared an overseas colony of Portugal, becoming independent in 1974. Major ethnic groups include coastal Balanta, Manjaco, Bijago (Bijogo), Diola and Beafada-Nalu; Mande and Fulbe (Fulani) in the savannah; and urban populations of Cape Verdean and mixed descent. Of the 966,000 inhabitants (UN estimate ...


Elsbeth Court and Jonathan M. Bloom

revised by Sheila S. Blair

Country in eastern Africa, bordered by Sudan and Ethiopia to the north, by Somalia to the east, by Uganda to the west, by Tanzania to the south-west and by the Indian Ocean to the south-east. The capital is Nairobi. It has a population of nearly 37 million (2007 estimate), of which about 10% are Muslims who live largely along the coast, especially at Mombasa. The national languages are Swahili and English. Kenya owes its diversity of climate and geography to the Rift Valley, which has influenced the population’s distribution and livelihood. Most of the population are engaged in agriculture or pastoralism, and only 20% work in urban areas.

People of four distinct language groups have settled the area, resulting in a strongly localized system of social organization. Among the c. 50 different ethnic groups, the typical political units are clans and age-sets, with only Swahili towns having centralized hierarchies. Despite a long history of foreign influence via Indian Ocean trade, extensive up-country contact with Europeans began only in the late 19th century. A widespread sense of being East African is manifest in the ubiquitous ...