shows around the world
L. Pescador, 1995
Africanae, a Latin name deriving from the title of Georg Schweinfurth’s 1875
book, was generated by the homonymous on-line
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.
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?
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.
same reasons, it should be considered improper to use the generic term
“African Arts” in relation to a
of the Nigerian Kingdom of Benin of the XVII century, a 19th-century
of Gabon or an Ivorian
of the XX century.
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.
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
Not to mention, amongst other related institutions, the Metropolitan Museum
of New York, the
and Paris’ recently-opened
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.
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.
Onda ed Elio
Benin bronze plaque
Kota reliquary, Gabon
Yaouré mask, Ivory Coast