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African music across the world read real facts here.

Black music is an umbrella term that organizes music created, produced, or inspired by black people, people of African descent, including African music traditions and African popular music as well as the music genres of the African diaspora, including Afro-Caribbean music, Afro-Latino music, Afro-Brazilian music and African American music. These genres include negro spiritualgospelrumbabluesbombajazzsalsaR&Bsambarock and rollcalypsosoulcumbiafunkskareggaedub reggaehousedetroit technohip hopgqomafrobeatfunk carioca, and country.

Black music in Britain received its first serious journalistic coverage in Black Music magazine (1973–1984).


Music is a monumental part of all cultures because it has the power to unify people and cross borders. Just one song can have the power to bring millions of people from different backgrounds together. Many genres of music originate from communities that have visible roots in Africa. In North America,, it was a way that the early slaves could express themselves and communicate when they were being forcibly relocated and when there were restrictions on what cultural activities they could pursue. In a time where their world was being turned upside down, music served as an escape and form of communication/expression for early black communities. The ability of music to act as a binding factor provides all culture’s with a strong sense of connectivity. Loosely termed black music with no specificity with regards to genre as a definition in the United States started with its roots embodied in slave spirituals and gospel music.

The term for many coming from places of “black” origin can be perceived in a derogatory manner by cultures who see the term as a blurring of lines which ignores the true roots of certain peoples and their specific traditions. To refer to musical genres with strong African-American influence, such as hip hop music, is very limited in scope and is not adopted by academic institutions as a true category.


Main article: List of musical genres of the African diaspora

African-American music styles

Economic impact

Record stores played a vital role in African-American communities for many decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, between 500 and 1,000 black-owned record stores operated in the American South, and probably twice as many in the United States as a whole. African-American entrepreneurs embraced record stores as key vehicles for economic empowerment and critical public spaces for black consumers at a time that many black-owned businesses were closing amid desegregation.[35] In addition, countless African Americans have earned livings as musical performers, club owners, radio deejays, concert promoters, and record label owners.

See also

African Americans in the Art of Music

                               Jenkins Photo Collection

African Americans have made significant contributions to the art of music in many genres. From gospel legends Shirley Ceasar, to Motown legends Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and many more. The Bay Area has also produced many legends from Oakland born artist Sheila E., to rap/hip hop artists Too Short, M.C. Hammer, Digital Underground, and R&B artist Goapele.

Seeing the need to have the accomplishments of African American music and its musicians recognized, music producer Kenny Gamble and broadcast executive Ed Wright, crafted an idea of celebrating the contributions of African Americans musicians to the art of music while also taking black music globally. Their efforts resulted in President Jimmy Carter proclaiming June as Black Music Month.

History of African American Music

     Jenkins Photo Collection

The music of African Americans can be traced back to the days of slavery. In the fields as slaves were working you could hear them singing songs to pass the time. These songs were a way for them to share their life stories. Many slave owners began to forbid their workers from using their own languages to chant or use drums. Owners believed this was a form of communication, getting the message out to other slaves about impending escapes or insurrections.

One musical genre that has roots back to the days of slavery is gospel music. As slaves became Christians, a religion forced upon them, they began singing hymns later termed spirituals. These spirituals later evolved into gospel music.  With the abolition of slavery, a new form of music began to emerge.  Free blacks found themselves expressing their disappointment in a post-slavery society. This genre became known as the blues.

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland not only has numerous archival collections that include oral histories of Bay Area musicians, but also library materials relating to African Americans in the field of music. Come and view some of the following titles in our library and archives department related to African American music.

From the Archives:

Our Archives Department has a number of collections relating to African American music and the music scene.

Banks (Charles E.) Papers 1956-2000

McGhee (Brownie) Papers 1990-1996

Fuller (Jesse) Collection 1971-1976

Friends of Negro Spirituals Oral History Collection 2007

Payton (Jay) Papers

From the Reference Library:

Our reference library has numerous titles that document the history of African American music. One title in particular, Lift Every Voice by Burton W. Peretti traces the roots of black music in Africa from the end of slavery in the United States to present day. The book documents the different musical genres such as spirituals, ragtime, blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop—as well as black contributions to classical, country, and other American music forms.

In addition to the vast number of books on music legends the Reference Library also has a number of pictorials books that document the history of African American music and musicians with full page photos.

The following books can be viewed in our OVERSIZE collection in the library:

Carol Friedman: The Jazz Pictures                                                     

Carol Friedman

An impressive collection of photographs of jazz greats and legends taken by Carol Friedman. The book includes blues artist and former Oakland resident the late Charles Brown.

The Blue Note Years: The Jazz Photography of Francis Wolff     

Francis Wolff

A book of photos from the collection of Blue Note founder Francis Wolff who photographs rehearsals and recording sessions of many Jazz greats over 25 years such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

Bay Area Blues                                                                       

Michelle Vignes & Lee Hildebrand

Lee Hildebrand’s book contains black and white photos of the Bay Area blues scene including artist Beverly Stovall, Lowel Fulson, John Lee Hooker and many others.

Black Beauty, White Heat a Pictorial History of Classic Jazz         

Frank Driggs & Harris Lewine

Over Time: The Jazz Photographs of Milt Hinton                              

Milt Hinton

Other titles of note in our library collection include:

Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography                    

Ernie Paniccioli

Photography documenting the hip hop scene from the 1970s Cold Crush Brothers, to the days of Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys and Run DMC of the 1980s to the 90s rap artist Tupac and Biggie and early 2000s artist such as DMX.

The Illustrated Story of Jazz                                                               

Keith Shadwick

Spend your day learning about the history of jazz, its roots and beginnings as Shadwick takes you on a journey through classic jazz, swing, bebop to the days of cool jazz and beyond.

Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Art of Louis Armstrong              

Steven Brower

This book tells the life story of Louis Armstrong through colorful pictures of using his writings, scrapbooks and artwork.

Come to the African American Museum and Library at Oakland to learn more about the archival collections and books that we have on African American music.

Did you know that the AAMLO now has a YouTube page to view archival footage? Subscribe TODAY at African American Museum and Library at Oakland.

Check this video out from the Jay Payton Show with the below link….


I got to meet MC Hammer in

Tomeka Ridley | Mon, 07/23/2018 – 9:59pm

I got to meet MC Hammer in college. The Academy of Art shot one of his music videos. Also, I am a Christian. No it wasn’t forced on me but was passed down like most things from my family. And, No, we weren’t slaves. So there you have it.

Bamboo flute, Rwanda

Bamboo flute, Rwanda

Performing music and making African musical instruments is an integral part of most communities and it varies not only from country to country but from village to village. 

There are common features though and much like the other forms of African art, most traditional African music is more than just aesthetic expression. 

African music is a total art form closely linked to dance, gesture and dramatization. It permeates African life and has a function, a role to play in society; songs are used for religious ceremonies and rituals, to teach and give guidance, to tell stories, to mark the stages of life and death and to provide political guidance or express discontent.Child playing a Balafon in the Gambia

It also serves to entertain and is used in ceremonial festivals and masquerades to work up fervor from the spectators and participants alike. Singing, dancing and playing African musical instruments ensure a dynamic event transpires. 

The impact of the music is tantamount; the beauty of it, like African sculpture, is secondary to the primary function. Performances may be long and often involve the participation of the audience and much of it is associated with a particular dance. 

African musical instruments

There are some African musical instruments that cross boundaries and are found in varying shapes in the different countries but still have the same basic form. Some instruments have changed very little in 800 years since they were first recorded. 
Fulani flute

Africans have strong beliefs about the status associated with particular instruments and with the spirit of an instrument. The carver of the instrument is held in high regard in the community.

This is especially true with drums.Arched harp (kundi), Mangbetu, DRC, late 19th C

The following are some of the African musical instruments used throughout the continent, primarily sub-Saharan:

  • Membranophones (Drums):cylindrical, semi-cylindrical, barrel, hourglass, pressure, goblet, kettle, clay-pot, Djembe, West Africa
  • Chordophones (Stringed instruments):harps (koras), musical bows, fiddles, lyres, zithers, lutes
  • Aerophones (Wind instruments):flutes: bamboo, millet, reed, animal horn tips, gourds, trumpets: wood, gourd, metal tubes pipes; single, double reed, panpipes, horns: tusks and animal horns
  • Idiophones (Resonant solids):mbira, xylophone and lamellophone rattles and shakers: gourds, woven, wooden, stick, bells: ankle, cluster, double, single, pod, tubular, clapperless
  • Percussion:rainsticks, woodsticks, clapsticks bells, rattles, slit gongs, struck gourds and claypots, stamping tubes, body: foot stamping and hand clapping

African musical instruments also serve as works of art, carved into surprising shapes, covered with patterns and decorated with beads, feathers, paint or cloth. Figures are sculpted into the instrument as spiritual tokens empowering the musician to filter the godly or ancestral messages. 

For a more detailed account of African musical instruments.. see here

Saharan ‘green’ cultures left a legacy of rock art describing some are the earliest scenes of African music such as in the painting below. It is probably one of the oldest existing testimonies to music and dance in Africa and is attributed to the ‘Saharan’ period of the Neolithic hunters. 
Tassili-n-Ajjer, Rock painting of a dance performance, Tassili-n-Ajjer, Algeria, 6000-4000 BC

Traditionally, African musicians were not concerned with the impact of the music, nor its ‘beauty’, it had a specific function with dance being an integral partner to music and was used to entertain as well as to mark occasions and provide moral guidance. 

African singers use a large number of sounds, not all of them appealing to the ear; some are confronting or emotionally and spiritually charged. Singing style can be loud and resonant but can also be constricted and accompanying sounds can be added.

African traditions also emphasize dance and all the mime and props that go with it because movement is a significant form of communication.

Body percussion; clapping and foot stamping is also utilized. Improvisation is a fundamental element in African music. The musician’s capabilities are measured by the community and his listeners, they must reflect his inventiveness… his creativity… his inspiration… and his technical prowess.

African music history

From the 15th C onwards, our history of music making in Africa is mainly derived from studying representations of dances and making music with African musical instruments and scenes depicted in terracotta, stone or metal.

In Ife, Yorubaland we see footed cylindrical drums dating from the 10th to 14th century on terracotta artefacts.

In Benin, pressure drums appear on brass plaques from the 15th C onwards. These plaques have proven to be a never-ending supply of information on the use of instruments like horns, bells, drums and bow lutes in ceremonial occasions. In real form, the iron bells excavated in Katanga province, Congo and the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe are some of the earliest actual African musical instruments found, also dating around mid/late 15th C. 

Migrations of tribes, movement of slaves and colonial porters and servants have all contributed to the wide dispersement of African musical instruments. 

For example, lamellaphones with metal keys were a prominent feature in ancient Zimbabwe and spread through neighbouring kingdoms to Katanga and Angolan cultures, all the while becoming smaller and smaller for travelling purposes. Zimbabwean ‘mbiras’ (lamellaphone) and ‘ngomas’ (drums) were first written about by Father Joao dos Santos, a Portuguese who travelled through the lower Zambezi in 1586 and recorded his impressions of the sounds these instruments made and the effects they had on their combined audience.

Historically, Africa has contributed hugely to music-making in many other areas of the world most notably the Americas and most significantly in genres such as jazz, rock and roll, blues, salsa and samba. Music once considered “primitive” by Westerners is now highly respected for its rhythmic sophistication and complexity. 

African music

Singing is as basic a function as talking for most African people; mothers sing to their babies on their backs as they walk, work and dance, building an inherent sense of rhythm. 

There are a great variety of sounds produced but generally singing is loud and resonant but it can also be shrill and piercing or it can include ululating, clicks and grunts. It can also be extremely melodious, using acapella and creating deeply harmonious songs. 
Bakisimba dance. Saharan vibe

Personally, some years ago, I had the privilege to listen to an extraordinary group of performers from the Zambesi Valley in Zimbabwe: Tongas, whose haunting music blown from their horns and beaten off their drums made such amazing sounds that, if one closed one’s eyes, one could believe one was in New York or London hearing the very latest contemporary jazz. Dinka Tuich horn trumpet

If anyone has heard the ground hornbill calling to his mates in the African bush in the early mornings then you will know the sound of Africa and it is echoed in their fantastic evocative notes. 

If anyone has watched an African woman hoeing in the field with a baby strapped tight to her back and the thud of her hoe is harmonised with the song she is singing while she toils, then this too is the resonance of Africa and is intrinsically lodged in their genetic memory. 

Contemporary African music

Contemporary African music is immense in every respect and is possibly the most dynamic and vibrant form of cultural expression on the continent. 

The music industry is huge with most countries supporting wonderful musicians who still use traditional African musical instruments but overlay them with contemporary rhythms and lyrics. This is a hugely exciting form of expression for modern day Africans and what they produce is loved and admired and danced to, the world over.

African musicians represent the collective memory of their continent and their instruments reflect their history, their culture and their ancestry. 
Fela Kuti, Nigeria

cultural music club

Culture Musical Club, Zanzibar

While being hugely creative, what is consistent throughout this huge continent is that it has become, like art, a vehicle with which all participants can make a social, political and sometimes spiritual comment. New forms are constantly being created in response to new social, economic and political contexts. Many African states have experienced very hard times in recent history and in the face of this, music has demonstrated itself to be a successful manifestation of emotion in the face of heartbreak and suffering. 

With poetry, dance and prayer the experience becomes a dual expression of inner freedom and possession, radiant happiness and anguish, loss and emotive expressiveness. 

Mamadou Diabaté, balafon

Mamadou Diabaté, balafon, percussion mania

Mamadou Diabate was born in 1973 into a traditional ‘Jeli’ musical family in Burkina Faso, W Africa. They had a long history of story-telling and music-making. From a very young age he learnt from the Balofonist masters in neighbouring countries around him.

Today he lives in Austria where he performs his own compositions on the Balafon and other percussion instruments as well as singing. He sometimes joins up with his brother Seydou Diabate.

Aziza Brahim was born in a Sawrawi refugee camp in 1976 in Western Sahara.

She has risen above her formidably challenging background to become a major star on the African continent and in Spain where she currently resides. She says “I am as African as I am Arabian’ and that music and her voice can be a powerful weapon, a tool for change, social comment and advancement.Aziza Brahim

Her music is an enchanting, heady mix of Latin, Spanish, African, Hassaniya and desert blues (Ali Farka Toure). She recognises Mali as the cradle of African music. See here for more:

World music

Contemporary African music is a huge industry with most countries supporting wonderful musicians who still use traditional African musical instruments like the kora (harp), djembe (drum) and mbira but overlay them with contemporary rhythms and lyrics. This has expanded to musical forms such as techno-funk and DJ culture that are way beyond their original context.

Tribal techno-funk fuses world dance rhythms with centuries old instruments and melodies creating haunting, trance-like sounds that contemporary belly dancers like Sharon Kihara are using in their performances. Hip-hop has its own language in Africa, different from the Americas where it emerged. Congolese rumba takes on powerful rhythms and narratives just as contemporary art does in this country. 

Wenge music, Congo 

The aim of this music is to give Congolese subjects a form of release from their daily hardships. The force of this music compels the body to escape from itself, either by using the body itself, the buttocks and the hips swinging like a pendulum, or by simply listening to all the complexities the music presents; its rhythms, lyrics, tensions and melodies. 

Either way a state of serenity is achieved. 

jimmy omanga

Jimmy Omonga (DRC)

Jimmy Omonga was born in Kinshasa, Congo and taught himself to play guitar, singing in a choir and writing his own songs by sixteen. He moved to Angola and then Cape Town where he combined his beautiful Congolese ballads with Afro-pop and the South African choir tradition.

The catchy sounds produced were so original that he was labelled the ‘Best Newcomer in World Music’ by Beat Int, UK in 2008. He continues to astonish and delight both abroad and in Africa, playing at festivals like Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar. Toubab Crewe, Essekane, Mali

Another music festival that attracts large crowds and musicians to Africa is ‘Festival au Desert’ in Essekane, Mali. Below is Toubab Crewe, a band which fuses rock and roll and W African music blending Mali, and America’s ‘dirty south’. 

They are usually to be found in the blues and jazz clubs of New York. 

African art history

African art history has played a significant role in shaping the culture and history of the world. The belief that Africa is the cradle of the history of mankind is virtually unshakeable. The origins of African art history lie long before recorded history, preserved in the obscurity of time. Rock Art is centuries old, while shell beads fashioned for a necklace have been recovered in a cave in the furthest reach of the southern peninsula of South Africa that are 75 000 years old. 
Rock painting, Herdsmen, African art history, Algeria

A study of African art history indicates the earliest sculpture forms found come from Nigeria and are dated around 500BC. However, the lack of archaeological excavations inhibits knowledge of the antiquity of African art and the sheer disposable nature of the raw materials used in the creation of art objects means that an untold wealth of pieces have disintegrated in time.

Compounding this, as these objects were not coveted as aesthetic accomplishments by the indigenous communities who created them, no effort was made to preserve them. Often their value was negligible once their function was performed.

Foreign colonisation of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa took place from 1840 onwards and different values became omnipresent. A lot of African art was acquired for curious means by travellers, traders and missionaries in the century before and left the continent. Colonialists most often did not give indigenous art the merit and attention it deserved and thereby African art history was not preserved or documented.

There has been a huge emphasis on Central African art history for two reasons, one being that the communities who resided there were the most sedentary of the tribes in Africa and secondly, that they produced figurative sculptures that Western collectors could most easily identify with as ‘art’; as they defined it.

The basic subject is the human figure and strong formal qualities were exhibited with strong design features creating balance and harmony. These formal design qualities combined with a powerful spirituality and expressive vigour attracted early twentieth century artists to explore new dynamics in visual art and became the birthstone for modern day abstraction.

The surge in interest in collecting African art, both tribal and contemporary, has forced scholars and investors, governments and institutions to re-examine the very essence of African art. Collections that have been inhabiting deep, dark depths of museum vaults have been moved to the forefront of African art history museums, galleries and auction houses to be observed and celebrated for the beautiful and fascinating field of art that it is. European and African researchers are studying collections not only to see how they may be used to shed more light on African art history but also to help restore lost traditions and skills in the crafts of the cultures from whence they came.

Historically, some communities were non sedentary and would have carried with them as little as possible and therefore only utilitarian objects would have been transported. Because their value was based on their functionality and their spiritual attributes, should their purpose no longer be of service to the creator and his community, they would have been abandoned.

Africa must have lost uncountable pieces of art that would have been lost on the wayside of migratory existence. 

The beginnings of African art history

Rock art is the earliest art form in Africa. 

round headed figure

Round headed figure
3000 BC, Niger

We know from human evolutionary science that modern Homo Sapiens began in Africa. It stands to reason therefore that Africa would contain both the oldest and greatest amount of rock art on this planet. 
Bradshaw foundation

The oldest images scientifically dated are in Namibia (the Apollo 11 caves) from about 24-27,000 yrs ago, yet most experts agree that Africa’s rock art may date to more than 50,000 years ago. 

giraffe engraving

Giraffe engraving, Niger, Bradshaw foundation

The earliest known rock art preserved in the Saharan sands in Niger dates as far back as 6500 BC. They are carvings known as petroglyphs and depict animals like giraffes that no longer exist in that area.

From these images we learn how ancient tribes and cultures viewed their universe around them. Observing the paintings may give us insight into their thoughts, their spiritual and physical worlds.

Unfortunately, much of this valuable heritage is being destroyed; either by natural erosion as the sites come under civilisation pressure or by graffiti defacing the rock canvases.

African art history presents a world heritage we need to find a way to preserve. 


nok head

Nok head
Northern Nigeria
500BC – AD500

The earliest known sculptures are the remarkable terracotta pottery heads, most of them fragments of figures, from the Nok culture of Nigeria and are dated around 500 BC through to 200 AD.

They are made from grog and iron rich clay but none of them have been found in their natural settings and they demonstrate that strong abstract figural representation has existed in Africa for over 2500 yrs. Nok male figure, Northern
Nigeria 500BC – AD500

nok terracotta head, jos

Jos museum, Nigeria. (The terracotta clay slip has eroded away leaving a grainy pock-marked original surface)

Their strong formal elements and expressive quality places them at the start of the African sculptural tradition. They are remarkable for their sense of caricature and have a strong sense of style showing elaborate hairdos and ornamentation. 

Nok terracottas currently occupy an important but isolated space in African art history.

By around the 1st C AD, figures of an intriguing severity are being produced in the Sokoto region of north western Nigeria. Sokoto itself is at the confluence of ancient trade routes. These figures tend to have heavier brows and are less ornamented than Nok figures, but there is undeniably a link even if we are yet to fully comprehend the connection between the two seemingly isolated cultures. 
Lydenburg head
South Africa, 500 AD

The fired, earthen ware Lydenburg heads were found in the same named district in South Africa and it has been established that they were buried there in 500 AD making them the oldest known African artworks south of the equator. Little is known of the ancient culture that produced this group of seven heads but the careful manner in which they were buried reveals the significance and respect they had for the people who laid them under the ground.

The large furrowed rings around the neck may signal prosperity and power but it can not be known for sure. We can only speculate and place them in context with what we know about African art history. 
Ife terracotta queen with
elaborate headdress
1000-1300 AD

Terracotta sculptures have been unearthed by archaeologists in the area of Jenne in Mali and at Ife in Nigeria and date from 1000 to 1300 AD. Powerful terracotta sculptures continued to be made throughout Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Stone sculptures exist from the Kongo people and the Sherbro from Sierra Leone dating no later than the 16th C. Ivory was carved with great skill in Benin at the same time.

Metal sculptures and carvings

oni brass figure

Brass figure Oni (King)
of Ife 14th-15th C

Cast metal is the only other material to withstand the continent’s termites.

Dating back to the 9th C AD is the bronze casting tradition of the Igbo-Ukwu tribe of Nigeria. Sites have revealed cast bronze regalia as well as other works of art.

This superb tradition reached its peak with the Ife people from Yoruba, Nigeria who began to produce very fine brass and bronze castings in the 12th C and continued to the 15th C. Life size heads and masks and smaller full-length figures achieved astonishing realism and reflected a quiet intensity that was the forerunner to that quality which we now admire so much in traditional African sculpture. Sometimes they also cast in pure copper, technically much more challenging than brass. 

From the 15th C even to today, the Yoruba people in Benin created sculpted heads that today are known as the Benin bronzes but are in fact made of brass which arrived in the form of vessels and ornaments on the trade route and melted down. In both these cultures their works were often produced for their Kings and had magical powers, reflecting their beliefs and the socio-political organizations and chiefdoms which existed under the rule of a divine King or Ife.

brass plaque

Brass plaque
Benin, 16th

plaques 2

Plaques, royal court

The arrival of the Portuguese prompted Benin sculptors to produce brass plaques with scenes in relief. These plaques were nailed as decoration to the wooden pillars of the royal palace. 

Textiles and weights

These two areas of art can also give us some chronological order in trying to understand the nature and time sequence of African art history. The earliest textile remnants are found again from Igbo-Ukwu and date to 9thC AD while the Tellam caves in Mali were found with cotton and woolen cloths preserved since the 11th C.

The Akan of Ghana manufactured small cast copper and bronze gold weights from the 18th C which came in all forms, animal, human, fruits, even abstract geometric shapes. They stood as little figurines, many less than 5cm high and expressed a liveliness and spontaneity not often found in African sculpture.

19th and 20th C African wood sculptures

Chamba people, Nigeria
wood with pigment

Wood carving remains today the primary sculptural art form of the sub Saharan continent.

African art history shows the earliest wooden sculptures from the 17th C are attributed to the Kuba, central Zaire but the earliest surviving sub-Saharan sculpture is a zoomorphic head found in 1928 in Central Angola. It is dated to the 8th-9th C and survived being buried under the water table.

The finest examples of surviving wood carving date around 1920, some collected as early as 1890 and generally gathered before 1945 while tribal art was still very much in practice. 

Influence on modern art and architecture of 
African art history

At the start of the 20th C, many artists such as Derain, Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani became enthralled by African art and began to visit the Trocadero museum in Paris to gaze upon the unique forms, absorbing all that was presented before them.

These artists saw in this art a formal perfection countered by abstraction, asymmetry by balance, primitivism with sophistication of design. They responded to this raw expressive power with all their faculties, not only with sight but with imagination and emotion and experienced a mystical and spiritual encounter.

This absorption exploded in a fascination in abstraction, organization and reorganization of forms, and the exploration of emotional and psychological areas that had not been investigated before. It helped them move beyond the naturalism that had defined Western art up to this point.

Now, the status of visual art was changed forever and Cubism was born, influenced by the African sculptor’s simplified use of planes and forms and the rearrangement of human form that was based, in fact, on disproportion.

Picasso and the other group of avant-garde artists from the ‘School of Paris’ began themselves to collect tribal sculptures and artefacts that were beginning to appear in great numbers in Paris as a result of French colonization in Africa. Picasso incorporated the ceremonial masks of the Dogon tribe into his groundbreaking work like Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, (1907-1909) and the influence of his Gabon masks he acquired is also seen in his white sculpture, Head of a Woman (1929-1930).

Modigliani was singular in his adaptation of the stylistic influences of the work of the Baule tribe, from the Ivory Coast. Brancusi adopted not so much the form but the use of wood as a sculpting medium just as on the other side of the world in America, sculptors such as William Zorach and Chaim Cross rejected Rodin’s cast-bronze stronghold in favour of direct carving in wood.

Matisse was influenced not only by the sculptural forms of African art but also by the handcrafted textiles he, as a member of a family of generational weavers, was drawn to Kuba cloths from the Congo, in particular, with their allover patterning became inspirational for his paper cutouts with their perspectival shifts. He noted that his impulsive use of bold colour stirred the emotions and related to the ritualistic origins of African Art.

In architecture, two new principles had radical influence on design. One was the visual effect of decorative patterning on surfaces, most notably exterior walls and the other was a new attitude to spatial environments, spaces that do not just conform to human size, to function and form but also to the psychology of human nature.

Architects such as Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer expressed themselves giving brutal form to structures and monumentalized buildings. They introduced long linear vertical lines and embellished their structures with textured murals and large bas-reliefs based on the nonlinear scaling of geometric shapes that is particular to African decoration.

African art history has had untold influence on the global art world.

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