The tradition of arts and crafts in Africa dates back thousands of years and is still strong today. African arts and crafts commonly encompass mediums of woodcarvings, brass and leather. Wood is particularly popular among many African artists as it is versatile and easy to obtain. Also familiar outlets are sculpture, paintings, pottery and ceremonial and religious headgear and dress. African masks, for example, are part of ancient history and are important to many cultures, particularly in West Africa.
In the majority of African art certain culturally significant themes appear. Popular examples include a woman with a child, a couple, a man with an animal or a weapon, and an outsider. The woman and child symbol reflects the yearning of African women to have children. An example of this is Gail Zavala’s painting Woman with Child. The couple may signify ancestors, a community founder, a married couple or twins. It is rare that a couple in art is depicting intimacy between a man and a woman. A man with an animal or a weapon can represent power and honour. An outsider could be an individual from another country or from another tribe. Generally, the more unclear the image of the stranger suggests a larger cultural or geographical distance of the stranger.
I propose to use illustrations of African cultural symbols in my work. I wish to study examples of the different mediums popularly used in Africa, and relate their cultural representation to my project. I plan on researching a wide range of examples in order to demonstrate the cultural diversity within the African continent.
My overall purpose is to create a set of posters for the African children’s charity, Abaana. I believe that using traditional African artistic techniques will result in a relevant and dignified work.