06. Africa, Art & Humanities

AP Art History: Purpose and Audience in African Art

AP Art History: Purpose and Audience in African Art
*Note: The enduring “Enduring understanding,” “Learning Objective,” & “Essential Knowledge” language comes from the 2019 AP Art History Curriculum and Exam Guide.

Enduring Understanding: A variety of purposes may affect art and art making, and those purposes may include, but are not limited to, intended audience, patron, artistic intention, and/or function. Differing situations and contexts may influence the artist, patron, or intended audience, with functions sometimes changing over time, and therefore affecting the role these different variations may play in art and art making.

Learning Objective: Explain how purpose, intended audience, or patron affect art and art making.

Essential Knowledge: Human beliefs and interactions in Africa are instigated by the arts. African arts are active; they motivate behavior, contain and express belief, and validate social organization and human relations.

Essential Knowledge: Use and efficacy are central to the art of Africa. African arts, though often characterized, collected, and exhibited as figural sculptures and masks, are by nature meant to be performed rather than simply viewed. African arts are often described in terms of the contexts and functions with which they appear to be associated.

African Masks:

    • 173. Female (Pwo) mask. Chokwe peoples (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Late 19th to early 20th century ce. Wood, fiber, pigment, and metal.
    • 174. Portrait mask (Mblo). Baule peoples (Côte d’Ivoire). Early 20th century CE. Wood and pigment.
    • 175. Bundu mask. Sande Society, Mende peoples (West African forests of Sierra Leone and Liberia). 19th to 20th century CE. Wood, cloth, and fiber.
    • 178. Aka elephant mask. Bamileke (Cameroon, western grassfields region). c. 19th to 20th century ce. Wood, woven raffia, cloth, and beads.

Essential Knowledge: Art is created for both daily use and ritual purposes (such as leadership, religious beliefs, diagnosis and divination, education, and personal adornment). Art forms may be prescribed by a diviner, commissioned by a supplicant, and produced by a specific artist. The art object comes under the custodianship of the person who commissioned it or a member of his or her family. Performances of objects are accompanied by costumes and music. None of these practices is simple or random. Cultural protocols acknowledge and ensure the efficacy and appropriateness of artistic experience in Africa.

Art & Ritual Divine Purpose:

    • 172. Power figure (Nkisi n’kondi ). Kongo peoples (Democratic Republic of the Congo). c. late 19th century CE. Wood and metal.
    • 176. Ikenga (shrine figure). Igbo peoples (Nigeria). c. 19th to 20th century CE. Wood.
    • 179. Reliquary figure (byeri). Fang peoples (southern Cameroon). c. 19th to 20th century CE. Wood.

Essential Knowledge: The arts of authority (both achieved and inherited status and roles) legitimate traditional leadership. Leaders’ histories and accomplishments are often entrusted to and lauded by historians, bards, and elders. Personal identity, social status, and relationships are delineated by aesthetic choices and artistic expression. Common ancestors link leaders, sanction social behavior and choices, and define the order of social life. Education, incorporation into adulthood, and civic responsibility are processes marked by the creation, manipulation, and interpretation of art objects.

Art & Leadership:

    • 167. Conical tower and circular wall of Great Zimbabwe. Shona peoples (Southeastern Zimbabwe). c. 1000–1400 ce. Coursed granite blocks.
    • 169. Wall plaque, from Oba’s palace. Edo peoples, Kingdom of Benin (Nigeria). 16th century CE. Cast brass.
    • 170. Sika dwa kofi (Golden Stool). Ashanti peoples (south central Ghana). c. 1700 CE. Gold over wood and cast-gold attachments.
    • 171. Ndop (portrait figure) of King Mishe miShyaang maMbul. Kuba peoples (Democratic Republic of the Congo). c. 1760–1780 CE. Wood.
    • 177. Lukasa (memory board). Mbudye Society, Luba peoples (Democratic Republic of the Congo). c. 19th to 20th century CE. Wood, beads, and metal.
    • 180. Veranda post of enthroned king and senior wife (Opo Ogoga). Olowe of Ise (Yoruba peoples). c. 1910–1914 CE. Wood and pigment.

Essential Knowledge: African histories, often sung or recited, are traditionally the responsibility of specialists. African art is sung, danced, and presented in holistic experiences for designated audiences; it is created for specific reasons and to produce expected results.

Art & history:

    • 177. Lukasa (memory board). Mbudye Society, Luba peoples (Democratic Republic of the Congo). c. 19th to 20th century CE. Wood, beads, and metal.

Suggested Works:

  • 174. Portrait mask (Mblo). Baule peoples (Côte d’Ivoire). Early 20th century CE. Wood and pigment.
  • 175. Bundu mask. Sande Society, Mende peoples (West African forests of Sierra Leone and Liberia). 19th to 20th century CE. Wood, cloth, and fiber.
  • 177. Lukasa (memory board). Mbudye Society, Luba peoples (Democratic Republic of the Congo). c. 19th to 20th century CE. Wood, beads, and metal.
  • 179. Reliquary figure (byeri). Fang peoples (southern Cameroon). c. 19th to 20th century CE. Wood.

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