Visual And Cultural Art Essay

1300 words - 6 pages

For my visual and cultural arts essay I visited the James E Lewis museum at Morgan State University. For my essay I have selected key pieces of art that I believe express the African experience in terms of their social, ethnographical and theological beliefs. This paper will also attempt to draw a comparison to key themes features in the African Creation myths, which will further elucidate the meanings hidden in these various works of art. It is my belief that this paper will not only serve as a guide into the philosophical ideas of the African peoples but will help to juxtapose these ideas with the often false premise purported by certain groups of society, which would like to view Africans as primitive and uncultured.
My first piece is the Benin bronze leopard. Situated in the African art section of the James E Lewis museum, if stands out not only as a true testament to workmanship but also as a sort of conveyor of nobility, this nobility which references the monarchy of the Benin Kingdom. The Benin Kingdom is ruled by a king names the Oba. This reverence for the Oba can be noted as a special style of ancestor worship, more specifically ancestor reverence. The idea of the society is that the Oba is divine, and as such the lives of all those who live under his rule revolve around his divinity. This divinity is represented by the various bronze plaques. The leopard has been regarded as a symbol of strength and fortitude for many years in the Benin Kingdom. This bronze cast and many others where used to decorate alters at the Oba’s palace. Most of the bronze artwork found in Benin Kingdom were designed in a plaque forms. These plaques among many other forms of Benin art represent the social, religious, and cultural life of the Oba. According to sources, in times of past live leopards would be paraded through the open streets during festivals. This reverence for animals, or animism is often expressed throughout many African cultures. The artwork itself, draws awe from many observers who have come to appreciate the close attention to detail and skill fullness of the bronze caster; however even more interesting is the fact that it comes from a sub-Saharan African civilization. This surprise and doubt was clearly expressed by the British when they encountered the Benin kingdom for the first time during the 1890’s, as they doubted the fact that such a sophisticated work of art could be produced by an African culture.
The use of animals in African art is also vividly featured in Igbo Ukwu art. The Igbo Ukwu art is comprised of mostly bronze art works in forms of pottery and bowls. The bowls may have often served various ceremonial purposes within the Igbo Ukwu tradition. Most notable among the various artworks by the Igbo Ukwu are the portrayals of Animals within the various works of Art. One of the most fascinating pieces that stood out as I observed the various parts of this culture were two pot pieces. The first features a rope pot. Highly stylized...

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