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Unit 6

6.1 Africa, 1100-1980 CE

5 min readโ€ขoctober 29, 2020

cait

Cait Levin

charly511115

Charly Castillo


AP Art Historyย ๐Ÿ–ผ

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Unit 6 Overview

With more than 3,000 different ethnic groups and 2,100 languages spoken on the continent ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ, Africa is extremely ethnically diverse, and we can see this through its art. Unlike in Europe, where art styles vary by nation or region (Central Europe, Western Europe, etc.), African art can look completely different in neighboring villages because of religious, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic dissimilarities. Be sure to keep this in mind ๐Ÿง  as we take our first look into the history and works of unit 6!

Contextualization (AKA the Historical Background) ๐ŸŒ

As mentioned earlier, African art is very localized, and this is because of the continent's geography. Places like the Sahara Desert ๐Ÿœ๏ธ, Atlantic and Indian Oceans ๐ŸŒŠ, and mountains โ›ฐ๏ธ acted as natural barriers and made it difficult for artistic traditions to spread to new regions before the invention of traveling technologies (planes โœˆ๏ธ, trains ๐Ÿš‚, etc).
Before the Scramble for Africa divided Africa among European colonizers, the continent was made up of powerful kingdoms ๐Ÿ‘‘, where many of these works were made. The majority of these empires practiced traditional African religions, however, some of them were exposed to Christianity and Islam and blended those beliefs with their traditional ones (syncretism). To this day, many Africans still practice these traditional religions and their blended forms, although the majority now practice Abrahamic ones (mainly Christianity and Islam, but also Judaism to a lesser extent). As you can see, religion is an important theme in this unit, so be sure to take notes on all of that โฌ†๏ธ
During the Berlin Conference of 1884โ€“1885, European colonizers split African lands between themselves, and most of the continent went under their rule. Imperialism (expanding a country's power to a new place through force) existed in Africa for less than a century, until the nations gained independence in the mid-to-late 20th century. So, now that you know a little about Africa's history, let's get into the art!

Architecture ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ผ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฑ

There are two examples of African architecture in the AP Art History subset, Great Zimbabwe and the Great Mosque of Djennรฉ.
During the Kingdom of Zimbabwe's late Iron Age, Great Zimbabwe acted as its capital city, the residence of its ruler, a trading center, and a granary (a place where grain is stored ๐ŸŒพ), showing its importance. Material-wise, Great Zimbabwe is a significant African monument because of its use of ashlar masonry, a construction technique where identically-sized stones are held together with a bonding agent called mortar. Ashlar masonry is hard to master, which is why most other African architectural works, including the Great Mosque, are made of mud or adobe ( โฌ…๏ธ which comes with its own set of challenges). What makes this building even more impressive is the amount of material that artists needed to use to build its eight hundred foot-long walls, which makes it the largest building constructed in early African history.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-zk934kD4IvOS.jpg?alt=media&token=ca87c721-75e0-4f95-a383-bb97856f8a33

Image Courtesy of Biznews. Aerial view of Great Zimbabwe

The Great Mosque was first built in the thirteenth century and was rebuilt in 1906. The mosque is replastered every year before the rainy season begins ๐ŸŒง๏ธ because it is made from adobe (a type of mud brick), which can ruin the building if wet. Using a material like adobe is a continuity in African art, since the majority of buildings are made from things that are naturally occurring.
Although the creators used a traditional medium, its exterior is uniquely decorated compared to other African works of architecture. Many African mosques have toron (protruding poles) on their outside walls, but most have fewer than the Great Mosque of Djennรฉ does. The artists also placed ostrich eggs ๐Ÿฅš on the building, which is a unique characteristic of this building. These examples show how the creators of this work both represented and deviated from artistic traditions.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-Z0hRYEEOR2X4.jpg?alt=media&token=71153b6e-eaa7-4b01-acd4-5b113880f908

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0). The Great Mosque of Djennรฉ

Sculpture ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญ ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฎ ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฉ ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฒ ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฆ ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ด

Although sculptures look different across Africa because of the continent's artistic and cultural diversity, there are certain similarities across all of the ones in the AP Art History subset.
  • Unlike the Greek statues from Unit 2 and the moai of Unit 9 ๐Ÿ—ฟ, African sculptures are small and portable, which made it easier for people to bring them to rituals. This makes sense, since many of these works were used in coming of age, ancestor veneration, and other religious and cultural ceremonies.
  • The sexual organs of humans are sculpted disproportionately large to emphasize the importance of fertility. We also see this characteristic in the unit 1 work Tlatilco Female Figurine ( โฌ…๏ธ great example of a connection between different units).
  • African artists began carving their medium without sketching it out beforehand โœ๏ธ, which shows an incredible level of skill.
  • The majority of sculptures are made from wood, ivory, metal, or a combination of the three, since these materials have symbolic meanings in traditional African religions and cultures. Ivory was a sign of status, and metal represented strength, which makes sense since most royalty sculptures are made from the material.
  • The heads of human sculptures ๐Ÿ‘ฑ are extremely large, while their bodies are thin, which makes the figures look unbalanced and unrealistic. This is unlike the Greek statues of unit 2, which put an emphasis on realistic-appearing human forms ( โฌ…๏ธ another cross-unit connection).
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-G0KgxvYx14xx.jpg?alt=media&token=b6caae23-8d38-41c1-aed7-25f0e51753fb

Resources:

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0). Ndop (Portrait Figure)

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-OyS6jVtA57Nq.jpg?alt=media&token=aec696e7-d24f-4db0-809d-afa35167ffc0

Image Courtesy of LibGuides. Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife (Opo Ogoga)

Summary of the Works

ArtLocationFormDate
Great ZimbabweZimbabweGranitec. 1000-1400
Great Mosque of Djennรฉ Djennรฉ, MaliAdobec. 1200 (rebuilt 1906-1907)
Wall Plaque from Oba's PalaceNigeriaBrass16th century
Golden Stool (Skia Dwa Kofi)GhanaGold over woodc. 1700
Ndop (Portrait Figure) of King Mishe miShyaang maMbulMushenge, Democratic Republic of the CongoWood1760-1780
Power Figure (Nkisi N'kondi)Democratic Republic of the CongoWood and metallate 19th century
Portrait Mask (Mblo)Cรดte d'IvoireWood and pigmentlate 19th-early 20th century
Female (Pwo) MaskAngolaWood, pigment, fiber, and metallate 19th-early 20th century
Bundu MaskSierra LeoneWood19th-early 20th century
Ikenga (Shrine Figure)NigeriaWood, metal, and beads19th-20th century
Memory Board (Lukasa)Democratic Republic of the CongoWood, metal, and beads19th-20th century
Aka Elephant MaskCameroonWood, woven raffia, cloth, and beads19th-20th century
Reliquary Guardian Figure (Nlo Bieri)GabonWood19th-20th century
Veranda Post of Enthroned King and Senior Wife (Opo Ogoga)Ikere, NigeriaWood and pigment1910-1914
And that's unit 6! Hopefully, this guide comes in handy as you study for the AP Art History exam in May. Happy studying, art historians ๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ!

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๐ŸขUnit 10: Global Contemporary, 1980 ce to Present
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โ›ช๏ธUnit 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200โ€“1750 ce
โš”๏ธUnit 4: Later Europe and Americas, 1750โ€“1980 ce
๐ŸŒฝUnit 5: Indigenous Americas, 1000 bceโ€“1980 ce
โšฑ๏ธUnit 6: Africa, 1100โ€“1980 ce
๐Ÿ•ŒUnit 7: West and Central Asia, 500 bceโ€“1980 ce
๐Ÿ›•Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 bceโ€“1980 ce
๐ŸšUnit 9: The Pacific, 700โ€“1980 ce
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