Africa's Influence on Western Art Essay

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Africa's Influence on Western Art

During the mid 19th century up until the Great War of 1914, European countries began to heavily colonize and come into contact with African nations. This was called "new imperialism". During this contact, European culture was influenced by Africa. The influence of the African people can be seen in the European society of the time. In the 19th and 20th centuries, modern artists embraced African art for its lack of pretension or formal qualities. In the latter part of the 19th century, the "scramble for Africa," consolidated at the Berlin Conference, divided the terrain of the African continent among the numerous European contenders. Fourteen countries were represented by a plethora of
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Germans claimed Namibia and Tanzania, and Spain was rationed Equatorial Guinea.
South of the Sahara Desert, there were three distinct types of societies; nomadic tribes in the desert and steppe regions, sedentary farming cultures located in the savanna and "rain-forest fringe" areas, and the ancient sophisticated kingdoms of Nigeria and the Guinea coast. All three sectors of the African society had different art traditions. However, all three were similar in certain aspects. These aspects being the similar attention to craftsmanship, a general use of non-permanent materials, use of geometric abstraction, and religious orientation.
Religion was at most often marked in masks and sculpture. Masks were used in many ritual ceremonies to embody spiritual forces. Geometric and naturalistic shapes were combined to represent a recognizable human face. As part of the daily ritualistic routine, families would often present offerings to cult figures, full-body images kept in homes as insurance of protection. The decorative arts, especially in textiles and in the ornamentation of everyday tools, were a vital art in nearly all African cultures. Wood was one of the most frequently used materials—often embellished by clay, shells, beads, ivory, metal, feathers, and shredded raffia.
As the contact between Europeans and Africans grew, parts of African culture assimilated into that of the Europeans. Europeans would bring home treasures found in Africa on

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