Arts of Western Africa

Mary Jo Arnoldi

in African Studies

ISBN: 9780199846733
Published online October 2013 | | DOI:
Arts of Western Africa

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West African arts include many of the most outstanding works from the continent and in the world. Home to both large empires and nomadic groups, this region has produced cultures that have created a diversity of art forms, from monumental architecture to small and intimate personal objects. Dating from the first millennium bce through the present day, West African art has been the focus of a growing body of research over the past half century. This article provides an overview of this literature, with an emphasis on recent resources. Sections include reference works, databases, bibliographies, journals, and anthologies that provide users with tools to explore the full range of publications on West African arts. There are also a small number of formative studies from the first half of the twentieth century which influenced research on the arts over several generations. The 1960s mark the end of the colonial era for most of West Africa (exceptions are Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, which gained their independence in 1973 and 1975, respectively). The 1960s also saw more exhibitions on West African arts, a new journal, and new publications, all of which have continued and gained increasing momentum into the present. The study of African art has always been interdisciplinary, and it has engaged critical perspectives from anthropology, archaeology, art history, and history, and more recently from film and photographic history and cultural studies. The resources included in this article reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the scholarship. The post-1960 sources are organized into sections that include special topics, art and archaeology, regional surveys, and the arts of individual ethnic groups. They are followed by a section on artists and artistic practices and a large section focused on media and materials that is subdivided into architecture; figurative sculpture in wood, metal, and stone; masks and masquerades; pottery and other containers; and textiles, dress, and adornment. The final section of this article covers contemporary African art, one of the fastest-growing areas of research and publication. Its definitions and scholarly approaches are also the most debated and contentious. In this section, the sources are divided into general overviews followed by sections on modernist arts, popular urban and tourist arts, African photography, and African cinema.

Article.  17496 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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