African art

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African art Naturalistic rock paintings and engravings from pre-4000 bc are found in the Sahara Desert. They are similar to European Palaeolithic art. Later African tribal art is inseparable from the ritual life of the community. Examples include body painting and dance; music and musical instruments (especially the drum); ceremonial masks and small sculptures used in ancestor worship; weapons and everyday utensils. Wood is the most commonly used material. Artists were usually professionals and received great respect and cultural status. Except Egyptian art, the most fertile artistic region is sub-Saharan Africa. The Nok terracotta heads from Nigeria are the earliest examples of African sculpture yet discovered (c.500 bc). The naturalistic bronze heads produced by the Yoruba at Ife, sw Nigeria, reveal an early (12th–15th century) mastery of the cire perdue process. This skill passed to the Ashanti of Ghana, who produced highly exaggerated figurative sculpture. The Dogon of Mali are renowned for their wooden sculpture, especially stylized wooden masks featuring recessed rectangles. The stonework of Great Zimbabwe reveals a highly advanced grasp of architectural design. It was only through its influence on early modern European art, especially Picasso's development of cubism and Modigliani's figurative paintings, that interest in African art flourished. See also Islamic art and architecture