Analysis of African Art

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  • Topic: Visual arts, Formalism, Art critic
  • Pages : 7 (2681 words )
  • Download(s) : 273
  • Published : February 24, 2011
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A close examination of the formal qualities of the brass altar head of the oba of Benin was quite exciting. The brass head was chosen for analysis due to its rich historic and cultural affluence civilization it depicts.Dating back to the 16th century,it is amazing that a quality work of art as the altar head has been in existence since in the interior of west Africa ,telling a story of civilization,cultural heritage and finesse obtainable as at then, thus making me analyse it to discover other aspects of work, besides the aesthetics. The object for analysis is a sculpture made from brass. A defined art piece from the old benin kingdom,Edo in Nigeria.Standing at 20 *19*22 cm on a circular base,the oval representation of the eyes,made pronounced by the thick arc to emphasise the eye lids cannot escape being noticed as African.The way the eyes were shaped,though lifeless could make one feel the eyes were watching despite the crowd around.This called for a closer examination of the artefact. The circle etched at the center of each oval shaped eyes gave the eyes a solid representation.The eye lids that terminates at the meeting corners of each eye are neatly chiselled out. Rising from the center of the meeting of the eyes is a well carved bridge of the nose in a consistent manner ,as it gradually spread to raised nostrils.It is easy to imagine air going into the nostrils from an anterior view but a closer look reveals a flat finishing at 180 parallel to face of the art work. The high cheeks rises from the bevelled center of the eyes spreading out and rounding up in systemic bypass of the mouth to the chin. The upper and lower lips are well positioned with a slight parting. The parting of the lips gives an impression of ready to speak posture which is perceived as a continuous quest of a ready to speak image. The cheeks appears to be resting on a set of circular strings, carefully carved to appear as pilled on each other with a solid circle as base. The left and right sides of the face is braced together on the circular base by a rectangular bar from a dressy cap. The cap that adorns the brass head is a net like weave. The weave is a neatly chiselled cylindrical parts woven into each other in a continuous and consistent pattern. Protruding from each side is a cluster of conically shaped brass, each with a bronze ball at the tip. Aligning with the position of each eye is a cylindrical brass carved in a slanting but opposing style on the cap structure. The whole net is attached to a circular ring, obviously functional as if it were real,functionally serving to keep the cap in place. The emphasis on the face of this piece of art cannot go unnoticed with the angular marks underneath each eye.The marks looks like doted lines making a v-shaped line beneath each oval eye from the sides to the middle. The ears can be seen left out of the side bars, this looks very significant because of the ease with which the sculpture stood,with a silent effect of peace and power yet in an inconvenient outlook. Inconvienint in the sense of the degree of freedom one would have ordinarily expected for vital parts like the mouth. The history of African spans a vast period, beginning as early as 25,500 bc and continuing to the present. Among the earliest surviving examples of African art are images of animals painted on rock slabs found in caves in Namibia. Animal images painted on or cut into rocks and canyon walls in the Sahara date from 6000 to 4000 bc. Later Saharan rock art depicts ritual activities, herding, and food preparation. The earliest known African sculptures (500 bc to ad 200) are sculpted clay heads and human figures from central Nigeria. Many surviving examples of African art date from the 14th to the 17th century. However, most of the African art known today is relatively recent, from the 19th century or later. Very little earlier African art has survived, primarily because it was made largely of perishable materials...
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