Engaged with Traditional African Art

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Artworks that engage with the tradition of primarily sub-Saharan African art, often through visual references to traditional forms or techniques like masks, traditional clothing, wooden sculpture, textiles, and weaving or carving. In recent decades, many artists from Africa or the African diaspora have used this technique to explore themes of ethnic identity and history while addressing wider global issues. For instance, British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare highlights how batik textiles associated with Africa are actually a hybrid product of European aesthetics and traditional African pattern, thus problematizing the idea of traditional African art. El Anatsui’s metal kente cloths utilize traditional West African textile-weaving techniques and clothing while interrogating the history of African colonialism. In her work, Sokari Douglas Camp incorporates actual masks and ritual clothing to challenge dichotomies like East and West and male and female, while also honoring the African object and reinstating its performative and sacred dimension.

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