African sculpture varies in design, meaning and origin.

Artisans from Ghana in the western part of Africa, sculpt these fine art pieces.

African sculptures are made from various materials, all of which depend on which part of the continent they come from. They also play an important role in African decor.

In West Africa , most of the figures are made from wood. They have long bodies, square shapes and facial features that represent an ideal rather than a human being. These sculptures are then used in religious rituals and other traditional ceremonies. Other types of sculptures are the ones made by the Mende people of Sierra Leone. They are made of wood and have surfaces that are flat and broad with round arms and legs. The Mossai people of Burkina Faso had sculptures that were used ritually to represent political power and culture.


Central Africa , the main characteristics include heart-shaped faces adorned with circles and dots. Wood was mainly used for these sculptures. However clay, stone, metal and ivory were also used throughout the region. The Fang people from Gabon carved full size standing figures as guardians of the relics of their ancestors. These figures were usually made by accomplished craftspeople who paid attention to the fine details.

East Africa is known for its pole sculptures. These are made out of a pole, carved in the shape of a human and decorated with various eye catching designs and patterns. The tops of these sculptures are carved with animal figures, people and various other objects. These poles are usually found next to grave sites and are associated with the dead. Other sculptures in this region are said to have healing powers. An example is the wooden figure used by the Pare people of northern Tanzania.

Clay sculptures from Southern Africa can be traced as far back as 600 AD. These clay figures have a combination of human and animal characteristics. Another form of African sculpture found in the region were the images carved into rocks. These carvings included abstract patterns as well as images of animals and are a form of rock art.

The various styles of the figures and sculptures found in Africa, is a testament to the diversity and complexity of the various ethnic groups that share the continent.


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