Abstract African art is mainly considered to be out of the ordinary.


For most, being exposed to abstract African art for the first time would prompt a thought of having seen something “out of the ordinary”. As visual abstraction is among the preeminent characteristics of African art, most, if not all, of these masterpieces are abstract.

This type of art was born out of the artists need to create a representation of objects rather than create a picture of them. Being traditionally religious and superstitious, most of the themes are intangible things or ideas like spirits, mythical gods, their powers, moral values, ancestral messages, and superstitions.

The beauty of African art lies not only on the surface or physical features of the artwork but the meaning or lesson that it tends to emanate.

Aside from being crafted to portray idealism, the pieces of art are simplified or distorted to highlight some dominant features of the artwork. This makes it easier for the observer to capture what subject or message that the artist wants conveyed. A very good example of this is the art that depicts mythical gods. Other people are able to comprehend who a certain figure symbolizes with the most prevailing or distinguishing character of the god shown through more accentuated physical or facial features.







In most creation of abstract African art, symbolism becomes evident. Iconic artwork of tribal leaders or kings of certain kingdoms are designed to have obviously larger heads compared to their bodies. The head, being the source of intelligence and power, and recognized as the center of being is amplified to express the persona of the subject, which is smart and great.

This way of abstract African art is also the same with shaping masks. These masks are used differently in divine rituals or tribal ceremonies. To seize that perfect personality in an inanimate object, certain lines, emotions, or facial features are made more exaggerated. Abstraction is also a way to evade stereotyping, especially in masks which are often created in huge collections for some specific religious ritual.

As obscure as the word “abstract”, these compilations of artwork equally presents individuality as it is unifying. It is one of the attributes that bring together every artwork, whatever artistic theme, which collectively resulted to the vibrant cultures within Africa. It is also abstract African art that discerns the unique culture and traditions of the artisans of the craft. Every hue, shape, and design reflects an exquisite concoction of civilization, norms, and culture that makes every African ethnic group stand out.

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