The African Art, primitive, sacred and multiple

22 mars 2016

"To define African Art is to define Africa"

The African Art is a reflection of cultures and ancient civilizations. "To define African Art is to define Africa" said Roger Somé. This high ritual connotation art is bathed in symbolic values and imbued with the animist religion. Distinct depending on different tribes, animist religion still carries a single message: human beings are merely one element in a world they have to share with other animals and plants. It is essential for Africans to maintain harmony instilled by a distant and absent god, but present everywhere. In this way, objects and sculptures intrinsically have no decorative value and are intended to serve as intermediaries between the living who realize it and the visible and invisible cosmos around them.


(From the left to the right : Statue Baoulée from Ivory Coast, poupée Ashanti from Ghana, statue Sénoufo from Ivory Coast et Tchokwé from Congo)

Life in Africa is tough and the nature is often capricious, the people therefore use many intermediaries (statues, dolls, objects, etc.) to honor the gods and the ancestors so they put their power for mortals. Fertility for women, plenty for hunters, rain for farmers, protection and removal of bad influences for the villages are so many remedies and solutions that this Art should bring.

Destruction, collection, million

If, at first, in the XVth and XVIth century, African objects brought by Westerners, including the Portuguese, are exhibited as curiosities, from the XVIth to the XIXth century, they are neglected. Judged shocking, as a testimony of African inferiority and their polytheism, the sculptures were destroyed by missionaries. Most of these objects are wood (soft and light for masks, dense for statues and objects), others are in ivory, metal, clay, terracotta and even stone. If themes are remaining the same, volumes and proportions vary from tribe to tribe. Thus we find straight and prominent figures among the Dogon and Bambara in Mali, majestic and sacred sculptures in Fang (Gabon) and Baluba (Congo) but also round and flexible forms from Tada (Nigeria) or from Sherbo (Sierra Leone).


(Fang Masks)

It was not before the XXth century, shortly before the First World War, that African objects are recognized as artworks by movements such as Fauvism and Cubism. If Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958) was the first to claim him as passionate about this art, other artists such as Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and André Derain (1880-1954) are captivated by "negro Art". However, it was only in the mid-1930s that we first saw African artistic elements marketed in major sales. Today, African Art and the surrounding market is soaring. Since 2006, many objects are sold for millions of euros as a great Fang’s mask from Gabon (5M€), a Senoufou’s statue (12M€) or a Luba’s arrow holder (8.3M€).

Valérie Depadova is painting Africa

Native from Maghreb (Bou Haroun in Algeria), Valérie Depadova is a child of Africa. The Carré d'artistes® artist of the week paints the bright colors of this land with a frank and spontaneous splash. His father brought back from his military missions in Black Africa some objects and sculptures that fascinated and inspired her. Stylized human forms and their disproportions, protruding or collected lines, often asymmetrical and dynamic postures of her characters, are some reminders from African sculpture. Eyes of the characters, in the triangle of their faces, observe time and movement. From this look, Valérie connects art to the most important events of life giving to her creations a societal dimension. Through her artworks with evocative titles, the artist invites us to think with her about our predatory world.