Professor Ann Bittl
Every civilization throughout history has recorded their beliefs, history and ideologies through different mediums and artwork. Three core beliefs of African societies included honoring ancestors and animal deities, elevating rulers to a sacred status and consulting diviners and fortune tellers. You can see this in their artwork by the use of symbolism in the sculpture to portray how important someone was by making a rulers head oversized and the use of tame animals near the figure to show his power over all things. They also honored their ancestors by way of body decoration and modification, rituals and masks. Being firm believers in the spirit world, they made grand forms of architecture using brick and living rock to create places of worship.
The early African people had a few ways of remembering and honoring their ancestors and family, like making sculptures for display in shrines or making pendants and jewelry depicting the likeness of those who perished. One example of this is the Waist pendant of a queen mother, from Benin Nigeria, ca. 1520, thought to portray the mother of Oba Esigie. The naturalistic ivory pendant symbolized the legacy of a dynasty and was made to honor the king’s mother. There are Portuguese heads on the top and bottom of the head. The Portuguese were thought of as people from the spirit world who brought wealth, power and prosperity to the king.
Trade networks led to the wide spread of religion throughout early African culture. Divination was important to African culture as people linked divinatory spirits to nature, landscapes, and animals and believed it to be a way to connect to the spirits and ancestors. You can see this at the soapstone Monolith with bird and crocodile. The bird and crocodile are said to represent “previous rulers who act as messengers between the living and dead.” Some people broke away from magic, witchcraft and...
Cited: Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: Backpack Edition, Non-Western Art to 1300. 14th ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Book C.
Bittl, Ann, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Chapter 19, South From The Sahara Early African Art
Power Point Presentation
Tlhagale, But. "BRINGING THE AFRICAN CULTURE INTO THE CHURCH." BRINGING THE AFRICAN CULTURE INTO THE CHURCH. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2014.
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