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L. Pescador, 1995

 

 

 

ABOUT US

 

Artes Africanae, a Latin name deriving from the title of Georg Schweinfurth’s 1875 book, was generated by the homonymous on-line discussion forum and the ongoing dialogue between a group of Italians passionate about sculptures, masks and objects belonging to diverse cultures of which, for centuries, Africa is a generous source. The synergies amongst these people, now friends, has made the creation of this site possible. 

 

But what do we intend to indicate with the generic terms “Artes Africanae” or “African Arts”? In fact, there is no exhaustive or precise answer to this thought-provoking question. Which type of art are we referring to exactly? To which populations or to which of the ancient or more recent Cultural Areas or Countries?

 

No one would use the term “European Art” to describe Ancient Greek Art, Flemish Art or Surrealism, but would use appropriate distinctions of space (place) or time (epoch). In the same way, whoever wanted to discuss “American Art” would never place in the same category the Arts of the pre-Columbus South American populations, the Arts of the Hopi or Kwakiuti Indians and Pop Art.

 

For the same reasons, it should be considered improper to use the generic term “African Arts” in relation to a bronze plaque of the Nigerian Kingdom of Benin of the XVII century, a 19th-century geometric Kota reliquary of Gabon or an Ivorian Yaouré mask of the XX century. 

 

The reason for this cultural grouping is probably due to the common belief that the African plastic arts were conceived out of homogeneous religious, ritualistic, and sociopolitical traditions, having innumerable aspects in common in the totality of the geographic areas in which they were developed and then interactively reproduced for centuries. 

 

The result of having reduced African sculpture to its mere aesthetic value without situating it in its proper cultural and historical context and social milieu and by avoiding to make appropriate distinctions, for example between cult and royal art, has created between the XVI and the XX centuries an exceedingly myopic Western perspective on these “objects”.

 

Therefore, objects that for some four centuries were labeled “bizarre fetishes of the blacks”, “idols of the savages” or more blandly “exotic items” were elevated to the level of “world heritage masterpieces” after having been culturally “rediscovered” by the European artistic avant-gardes of the early XX century then followed by their most recent and definitive consecration by the “Western cultural temple” of the Louvre Museum. Not to mention, amongst other related institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Dapper Foundation and Paris’ recently-opened Quai Branly Museum.  

 

As it seems evident, it took a long time to permanently reverse the concept of African art not belonging to the field of the “Real Art” in the full sense of this term as we understand it. In fact, for a long time we were also led to believe the “alibi” that the concept of “Art”, for us so fundamental and important, was totally ignored by the traditional African sculptors. 

 

It is nevertheless necessary to emphasize that many of these traditional sculptors had very developed aesthetic tastes and were capable of deep analysis and synthesis and of exceptional craftsmanship; all qualities that in their exemplary uniqueness and simplicity make some of these brilliant sculptors truly outstanding Maestros that however, in the majority of cases, unfortunately remained anonymous.

 

Vittorio Carini

 


FRIENDS SUBSCRIBERS

 

Gabriele Barbaresco

Gabriele Barbieri

Michele Bondoni

Anna e Vittorio Carini

Federico Carmignani

Roberto Cornacchia

Federico Ferrari

Umberto Giacomelli

Alessandro Iacopi

Alberto Maccaccaro

Marco Madesani

Gianni Mantovani

Luciano Martinis

Giancarlo Matta

Angelo Miccoli

Gigi Prati

Onda ed Elio Revera

Andrea Sandoli

Vincenzo Taranto.

 

 

 

 

Benin bronze plaque

 

 

 

Kota reliquary, Gabon

 

 

 

Yaouré mask, Ivory Coast