Chapter 15

Chapter 15
Africa Before 1800
Kim Dinh
Riley Gamboa
Core Beliefs
African people share many core beliefs and practices,
these include: honoring ancestors, worshipping
nature deities, consulting diviners or fortune tellers,
and elevating rulers to sacred status.
To express these core beliefs, Africans express
themselves through art traditions, such as: rocking
engraving, painting, body decoration, masquerades,
figural sculptures, lavish festivals, and
sacred/secular architecture.
Core Beliefs- Nok Head
N: Head Nok
D: c. 500 BCE-200 CE
P/S: Sub-Saharan, Africa.
A: Unknown, people of Nok culture.
M/T: Terra Cotta Sculpture
F: To depict a figure of Nok style. Triangle D-shape
eyes, also appears on Nok sculptures of animals.
Pierced in pupils, nostrils, and mouth for when figure
was fired. Buns pierced to held decorations/
feathers. Reflects farming culture.
C: Alluvial deposits on Jos plateau north of Niger and
Benue rivers. Remains in Lagos, Nigeria.
DT: Neutral stone, larger than normal proportion,
probably formed part of a complete figure. D-shaped
Ideas: Portrays large quantities, usually decorated
with ornaments, may represent ordinary people, who
were dressed up.
Example of core beliefs; figural sculpture.
Full Round Sculptures
The earliest African sculptures in the round have been found at
several sites in central Nigeria, that archeologists collectively called the
Every full round sculpture crafted, resembled either human or
animal figures. A main resource used to create full round sculptures was
terra cotta.
They included pierced eyes, mouth, and ear holes to help equalize
the heating of the hollow clay-head during the firing process.
Little is known of the original functions for these pieces, but theories
include ancestor portrayal, grave markers, and charms to prevent crop
failure, infertility, and illness. They also used them for ceremonial
Full Round Sculptures
N: Lydenburg head
D: ca. 500 CE
P/S: Nok culture
A: Unknown
M/T: Terracotta- Sculpting (additive) eyes,
ears, nose, mouth, hairline, by applying thin
clay fillets onto the head
F: helmet mask, ceremonial function
C: Animals appear on those Lydenburg
heads large enough to have served as
helmet masks. The head, therefore,
probably has a ceremonial function.
DT: In the full round, sculpted, incised
Ideas: Faces on helmet could be used to
scare people. Animal on top could represent
something in ceremonial purposes.
Trade Network Of the
Great Zimbabwe
The Great Zimbabwe empire had a wide trade network.
The Great Zimbabwe was prosperous trade center well before
Europeans began their costal voyaging in the late 15th century. With
their finds of beads, pottery, copper and gold objects from the near East
and China.
Impressive stone walls and towers enclosed the royal palace
complex. Walls meeting 30 feet, crafted from stones. The Great
Enclosure houses many stone structures, and sculptures.
Great Zimbabwe
N: Bird, Great Zimbabwe
D: c. 1200-1400 CE
P/S: ? Great Zimbabwe , monolithic
A: unknown
M/T: Soapstone sculpture, carving from single block
F: symbolizes previous rulers who serve as
messengers between the living and dead, sky and
C: Found at the shrine of ruler’s first wife of Great
Zimbabwe. Remains in Zimbabwe.
DT: Single block carving in full round. Neutral stone.
Stands seven feet tall.
Ideas: Bird represents wife’s ancestors. Crocodile
represents male ancestors. Bird is bird of prey.
Portuguese and Sapi
People on the Atlantic coast of Africa and present day Sierra Leone whom
the Portuguese called the Sapi, created art for themselves and also, for
Portuguese explorers and traders who took the objects back to Europe.
The Sapi export ivories the earliest examples of African tourist art, are
A fascinating hybrid art form.
The use of Sapi ivory and mix of European and African
Components are seen in Master of the Symbolic Execution.
(Figure to the right)
The European components of the saltcellar are the overall
design of a spherical container, and some of the geometrical
Patterning, as well as elements of dress, such as shirts and hats.
Distinctly African are the style of the human heads, and their