African art ( part 2): African art and craft seen with new eyes

More and more people such as art galleries, collectors and even tourists visiting Africa tend to sell African art. However all these people tend to only look at African art with an aesthetic judgement and they forgot that the objects were not created for this purpose. Their creators wanted to create sacred objects useful for their communities. So the question is how can you sell and inform about African art and craft without omitting the main goal of the African artists?

It is important to know that African art went through different status over the last centuries. Of course, all the different status were always set by the Westerner people:

                                -XVth-XVIIIth century:  African art = curiosity

While the Portuguese are the first to arrive in Black Africa , they try to impose the christianity to African people and they burn any wood art created by the inhabitants for their rituals. However Portuguese have a growing interest for ivory and gold. So to sum up during this period, all the ritual and sacred objects are encountering a negative judgment from the Portuguese and the other objects ( objects made of ivory for instance) are judged using Westerner criteria and they are brought back to Europe to be shown in what is called “ curiosity” chambers. These special chambers were successful until the XVIIIth century. The main goals of these chambers are to entertain, fascinate and teach.

                                -XIXth century: From curiosity to scientific objects

At the end of the XIXth century, the westerner expeditions changed and scientists are now part of them. Slowly the “curiosity chambers” became museums. The objects placed in museums are now used for ethnographic specimen and they are the witnesses of civilization progress. During this period, the objects are only studies by ethnologists and never by art historians. In the last 25 years of the XIXth century, colonialism is fully part of the Westerner strategies and universal exhibitions show African objects and also humans. African people are brought back to Europe to be put in museums so that westerner people can see how it is to live in Africa.

                                -XXth century : From scientific objects to primitive arts

Primitive arts appeared since the middle of the XIXth century but at this period, the expression “ primitive arts” means that it was created by people in the first period of evolution. A lot of Westerner artists had an interest for African objects but they only look at them from an aesthetic point of view.

                                -Today : An art fully recognized but still not fully understood by a lot of persons

Since 1960, primitive art has a growing public. For instance the Branly museum opened in 2005.

~ by myafrikart on July 27, 2008.

One Response to “African art ( part 2): African art and craft seen with new eyes”

  1. Sadly the vast majority of Westerners tend to view African art as trinkets, curios and ubiquitous stone carvings of stylized wildlife.

    At we have attempted to weed these out and present what, in our opinion anyway, is fine art. We feel these artists deserve wider exposure.

    Do you agree?

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