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African sculptures

African Sculptures: Influences and Insight to the Most Famous Tribal Art

African sculptures take many forms. They bless us with a fascinating insight into the rich cultures and tribal communities they were created in.

Historically, African sculptures are primarily made from wood, clay, metal, ivory, and stone. Thanks to its malleability and accessibility, wood is the most popular material used for creating African sculptures.

Learn more about the insight and background of Africa’s famous tribal art. We’re about to take you on a journey.

African Sculpture in Wood

African tribal art is often made from wood. A lot of the wooden sculptures located in Africa today are the 20th century.

It’s more challenging to find wooden sculptures from the 19th century or earlier unless preserved in a museum. That’s because wood deteriorates through termites or rot.

The Meanings Behind African Art Sculptures

African sculptures are usually figurative, symbolizing the human form. As mentioned, African carvings are usually fashioned from wood, but they’re also made from stone and other materials.

African art sculptures can be ancient, spanning centuries. Yet they can also be modern, standing in trendy galleries as a contemporary art form.

Traditional or tribal African sculptures are usually religious or spiritual. While they typically address the human form, sometimes they’re embodied as an animal or mythical spirit.

The sculptures prove creative spirit and talent. They display strong balance, craftsmanship, attention to detail, and the sense of design that symbolizes the creator’s intention.

African sculpture is often described as monumental. The form isn’t separated from the material from which it is shaped, gifting it a feel of intense solidity.

In African sculptures, the depiction of the human figure isn’t always proportional. Yet it often intends to emphasize or exaggerate particular areas of the body that the artist hopes to interest people. African artwork is often used as a way for people and supernatural spirits and beings to connect and communicate with one another.

The statues are carved by artists and are then given their energy by religious practitioners. These specialists then connect with the spirit worlds of their gods and ancestors to create the link.

When it comes to African statues meaning, the purposes of the art are very varied.

For example, many sculptures are created for fertility, rain, and good harvests, helping with social decisions and judgments, commemorating notable events, and making political statements.

They’re also designed to fight disease, natural calamities, and evil spirits.

African sculptures can be large to offer the allure of well-being to a whole community. They can also be made in a smaller fashion for people to decorate their private homes, offering similar benefits.

Makonde Sculptures

The Makonde are an ethnic community based in southeast Tanzania and Northern Mozambique. The Makonde established their culture on the Mueda Plateau in Mozambique.

The Makonde’s famous African statues are renowned for their entrancing abstract characteristics. They often feature whimsical human themes along with Tree of Life sculptures.

The Makonde’s artwork is an enthralling commentary on human life and death in a tribal community. The most renowned of the Makonde sculptures is a traditional mask with delicate tribal markings. Often, the sculpture features human hair.

The Makonde group create household items, figures, and masks. Artists were urged to create in ivory and stone by an Indian merchant called Mr Peeras. Mr Peeras had a shop in Dar es salaam where the collector Mr Murumbi bought a sculpture of a head along with other works.

After the 1930s, the Portuguese colonizers reached the Makonde plateau. They showed immediate interest and attraction for the Makonde sculptures

They ordered various pieces. These varied, from religious statues to political carvings.

After picking up such interest, the Makonde artists created new sculptures. They used pau-preto and pau-rosa instead of the soft and fragile wood they used previously.

Shona Stone Carvings

The Shona of Zimbabwe are among Africa’s most renowned carvers. It’s understood that the Shona community began carving stones more than 2,000 years ago.

The Shona would carve to show both personal and spiritual beliefs. The Shona are very religious and spiritual people. They believe in ancestral spirits, known as ‘Vadizmu’ spirits. Shona sculptures are created to link unity between our two worlds, the physical and the spiritual.

The artists behind the sculptures believe that every stone and every item has a ‘life spirit.’ This life spirit influences what statue that stone will transform into. Many Shona sculptors think that it’s their role to ‘release the spirit from the stone.’

Shona artists often develop a distinctive style of carving after many years. Because the community are so spiritual, artists can retain their artistic designs and freedom of expression.

Gabon Masks

The Gabonese people of Western Africa are known for their internationally celebrated masks. These include the n’goltang (Fang) and the reliquary figures of the Kota.

Each group has a selection of masks used for different reasons. Gabon masks are often used in traditional ceremonies such as marriage, birth, and funerals. Artists usually work with rare local woods and other precious materials to create the sculptures.

African Sculptures for the Home

African art has played a key role in shaping the culture and history of the globe, including wooden artefacts, cubism, and tribal art.

Do you want to take home African sculptures to decorate your living spaces? Here at Dakar Bazaar, we offer vibrantly rich ethnic art that represents different aspects of African culture.

From stools to face masks to shields, we have a vast collection of African sculptures that will look wonderful in your home or garden. Explore our tribal art collection here and see what catches your eye. As well as art sculptures, we also offer plenty of mesmerizing paintings and home décor to brighten up and add some spice to your home.