Form And Function In African Art

1179 Words5 Pages
Jeanette Hughes
P. Diane Knapp, Ph.D.
I ART 1053 390 Art History I Survey
February 10, 2016
The Role of Form and Function in African and American Art Objects before 1400CE

African and American art has developed from very old traditions passed down through out the centuries. But many years prior to the United States and nations of Europe became leading powers, Africa had known many great rises and falls of power. We will look at some of the history of African art first then explore American art.
Africa is divided primarily into two parts. The northern part which is north of the Sahara desert these people are known as Arabs. This includes the countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. The landscape varies greatly across this part of Africa.
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Artists also worked in ivory wherever elephant tusks were available. These usually were carved to honor deceased kings.
Another art form were mask. They performed many functions. They were considered supports for spirits. Spirits are found in nature according to customary beliefs. The mask may have been used to bring on rain or for the transition from childhood to adulthood. They were worn as a disguise. They may have been worn publicly or in private. The mask might have represented a male or female spirit. The mask were made of many kinds of material and many styles. They were made from wood, paint fibers, tree bark, metal and other materials. They were decorated with animal skins, beads and feathers.
Pottery was usually created by the women and they made it in all sizes and shapes for cooking, storing and serving food. This pottery was all hand-formed. The women created designs by rubbing the clay pot they had created with a small stone, blade or stick. The surface was then washed in a thin layer of slip, which is liquid clay, a different color than the vessel. The pottery was then fired in the open and finally dipped in a vegetable solution to seal them. Because they were fired at low temperatures, African vessels made by traditional methods did not shatter when used over open fire. Some vessels were used for religious rituals.
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All of the Americas, both north and south, have produced many artifacts of the different cultures. Each one unique and telling of the culture it came from. It is very telling that all the cultures were very serious about the spiritual rituals that they performed and the statues they made in honor of these rituals or the vessels used in them.
The artwork on each object was done with purpose and had a story to tell. Art is generally understood as any activity or product done by people with a communicative or aesthetic purpose—something that expresses an idea, an emotion or, more generally, a world view. (Maraviglia) Although arts oldest function may be religious rituals it has and continues to serve many other functions such as; commemoration of important events, propaganda or social commentary, recording of visual data, storytelling, or it can convey heavy emotion. Whatever the reason, art is to be interpreted by each individual as they see and feel it. Through the centuries art has evolved but its primary function still remains to tell the story at hand. The subject matter has not really changed, it still deals with human nature, condition, and events, and there has been changes to the media

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