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African Art

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African Fables & Stories

Most traditional African stories and fables have a moral point to them, or areused to educate and explain animal behavior.

For thousands of years, African stories and fables were carried forward from generation to generation verbally.

Ethiopian Icon Paintings

Ethiopian Icon paintings usually illustrate scenes from the old testament. Madeof wood, stone or metal, they are used on personal altars or worn as a personal talisman for protection around the neck.

The art incorporates elements of the Eastern and Western Christian artistic tradition, as well as Islamic cultures and the cultures of the people of the Indian Ocean area.

The icons have great religious significance,  and prayers to an icon can impart either blessings or punishments.

Ethiopian history and examples of it's artwork

Batik Printing

Batik is the art of decorating cloth using wax and dye.
To make a batik, areas of the cloth are blocked out with hot wax or a thick paste, and the cloth is dyed. The parts covered in wax remain the original colour. Repeating the process creates more complicated and colourful designs. After the final dyeing the wax is removed and the cloth is ready for wearing or showing.

There are examples of batik textiles in many parts of Africa: Two methods of resist are used: "adire eleso" which involves tied and stitched designs and "adire eleko" where starch paste is used.
The patterning of cloth is usually a family tradition handed down from mother to daughter. The traditional dye is indigo from a plant which grows throughout Africa. Once the paste resist is dry, the fabric is dyed in large clay pots or pits dug in the earth. After drying the paste is scraped off to reveal a white or pale blue design.

African Mask Making

The artist holds a respected position in African tribal society. It is his job to provide the various masks and sculptures for use in ritual ceremonies. His work is valued for its spiritual qualities.

Masks are used to represent the souls of dead people, lesser Gods, or animals. Only specially trained individuals are permitted to wear the masks. African tradition says that it is dangerous for others to wear ceremonial masks because each mask has a soul, or life force, and when a person's face comes in contact with the inside of the mask that person is transformed into the entity the mask represents.

The Ivory Coast and Baule Masks

No one produces a wider variety of masks than the people of the Ivory Coast. 
A special type of Baule mask is the Goli mask. It is used in dances during harvest festivals, in processions to honour visitors and at the funerals of important people.
The wooden circular face represents the life-giving force of the sun and the horns symbolise the great power of the buffalo.

Adinkra Cloth in African Culture

Adinkra are visual symbols, originally used by the people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. The symbols all have different meanings and are used on fabric, walls, in pottery, woodcarvings and logos. Fabric Adinkra are often made by woodcut sign writing as well as screen printing.
They can be used to communicate complicated messages about people, their lives and their society.

Ndebele Beadwork

The Ndebele are a group who live in South Africa. Ndebele Beadwork is extremely colourful and can be used to make all sorts of decorative objects and clothing. Up until World War Two, Ndebele beadwork was done in mostly white seed beads with a few simple designs, usually in black, blue or red. Grasses were used for thread. After the war they started using more color in their striking designs. 

Beadwork was the insignia of tribal royalty, and gradually developed broader meanings in traditional society. It developed into much more; a communication system very similar to writing, and as part of a symbolic code used for secret purposes by specialists in traditional magic. Elaborate beadwork costumes and body ornaments are still created for use in rural, traditional ceremonies marking the rites of passage from infancy to adulthood.

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