African Art

African Art

African Art

African Art

Excerpt

A VAST geographical body, its whole mass lying broad and ponderous in the ocean -- that is how Africa reveals itself to the eye hovering over the map of the world. The outlines trace their infinitely patient way around the mighty figure without anywhere permitting themselves an indulgent deviation. Nowhere does the water sport with the land, nowhere does the land display any activity beyond its own confines; closed against the world around, it lies there like a giant fragment.

There are no important groups of islands even to show the land boldly venturing out into the ocean. Only in the south-east do we find, stretching out in front of the continent, the great island of Madagascar, itself almost a continent in its own right with its own astonishing history, and only with reservations to be counted with the parent mainland.

To the north the land faces the Mediterranean with the same continuous and serene lines. But from the other side there reach out in sharp contrast towards the silent continent the limbs of the multipartite, nervous and spirited figure of Europe. This figure has had to earn the title of continent by its own historical prowess as it is geographically little more than a bizarre appendage to Asia. It makes repeated onsets into its southern sea and on one single occasion it brushes lightly against Africa at the Pillars of Hercules, as the Ancients called the Straits of Gibraltar. But, as if to protect itself against the threat of northern restlessness, Africa lays the desert girdle of the Sahara between itself and the Mediterranean world.

The connexion of Africa with Asia turns almost equally around a single point in its dependence on the slack hinge of the Sinai peninsula or, on a broader reckoning, on the Red Sea's joining rather than sundering of Africa and Arabia. Yet this zone of contact too, important though it historically is, scarcely affects the geographical compactness of the mighty continent.

Then, too, the internal organization of the body is great in its simplicity. Desert, savannah, primeval forest -- so runs the great triad of the African soil. Three worlds to which man, with his love of the delimited, is scarcely equal, for they imply infinite extent or infinite profundity; the desert stands for absolute negation of life; the savannah for maximum freedom for that which is animal; the forest for the complete unleashing of plant life. Man, in his helplessness, can meet such extravagances of nature only by . . .

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