The Sculpture of Negro Africa

The Sculpture of Negro Africa

The Sculpture of Negro Africa

The Sculpture of Negro Africa

Excerpt

Forty-odd years ago a group of young artists "discovered" in a bistro in Paris a few pieces of African Negro sculpture. In their search for new forms, these artists, who were rebelling against traditional European art, were the first to recognize the aesthetic qualities in these primitive carvings. African Negro sculpture is now universally accepted as one of the world's great sculptures. This book is an introduction to that art--to its forms and their meaning and the purposes they were made to serve.

During the short time that this art has been known, many articles and books have been written on it and numerous collections have been assembled by museums and individuals in Europe and America. But the greater number of these objects had already been collected before the end of the past century, some of them as long ago as the latter part of the fifteenth century, by traders, explorers, and, more recently, by ethnologists. These carvings were looked upon, however, mainly as curios or as scientific specimens of primitive handicraft. The many examples in ethnological museums and family libraries or storerooms were considered crude fumblings by "savages" with no artistic merit. It was only after their aesthetic qualities had been discovered by the artists in Paris that these African objects were recognized as exemplifications of an important art.

The early writings and exhibitions dealing with this art stressed only its aesthetic features. No concern was given to the people who had created it or to the cultural environment that had nurtured it. But the appreciation of any art is greatly enhanced by an understanding of the meaning and uses of its forms and by some knowledge of the setting in which it flourished. This is particularly true of an art with a cultural background as different from our own as that of Negro Africa. In the present book, therefore, the art is examined, whenever possible, in its relationship to African institutions, beliefs, and ideas in order to add to the greater appreciation of its aesthetic qualities.

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