the centuries, African artists have created artworks in various media
that underscore the dynamic quality of Africa's visual traditions.
The categories presented here represent the breadth of the collection
and are intended as a guide.
NMAfA collection includes tradition-based and contemporary
works of art. Both address important issues of identity, history
and aesthetics, demonstrate dynamism and reflect change as African
artists respond to new ideas, materials and sources of inspiration.
help shape and reflect established formal, functional and aesthetic
canons. These artworks, which are used in everyday and ceremonial
settings, address individual and community needs and serve social,
religious and political ends. Humans and animals, the primary subjects
in African art, depict desirable and undesirable aspects of human
behavior. Deities, ancestors and other spiritual beings that are
portrayed embody the breadth of African religious beliefs and practices.
The creators of tradition-based
African art are known and respected members of their communities.
Unfortunately, those who created many of the exquisite works now
found in museum collections remain unknown because their names were
not recorded when the objects were collected many decades ago. In
seeking to identify the makers of unsigned works of art, art historians
have turned to historical records, oral histories and stylistic
analysis to attribute works to a particular artist or workshop.
Such research helps us better understand the relationships between
artists and patrons and the circulation of objects in both the local
and the global marketplace.
Works of contemporary African art stress individual
vision and innovation and often address local (usually urban) and
global audiences. They find their place within both African and
global networks of interpretation and exchange. Their subject matter
is broad yet frequently focuses upon visions of personal, national
or pan-Africanist post-colonial identity and addresses struggles
seen and heard within the larger contemporary art arena. Africa's
contemporary artists work in a wide range of media, selectively
filtering the global exchange through local channels and bringing
local aesthetics to bear upon broader artistic debates and practices.