If you are looking to learn more about African Tribal Art, we thought it could be helpful if we gave you a list of African tribal art books that we believe are good books, filled with plenty information.
We are suggesting this list of African tribal art books, however, there are more books out there that you can read or purchase, which contain much more information.
Let’s not forget that Africa is a big continent, with lots of different tribes spread-out, all of them with their own culture, art, customs, beliefs, Gods and religion. Their ceremonies might have similarities to us outsiders, but for them it is very different although intents may be similar, such as reaching puberty ceremonies or religious ceremonies where some of their art pieces and statues are normally used.
Now we will leave you quite a sizable list of African Tribal art Books:
African Art by Frank Willett
“The art of the Fang, the BaTeke, the BaKota, and other African peoples is extraordinarily vigorous and shows a brilliant sense of form. The substantial aesthetic impact that their works have had on the development of twentieth-century Western art—on Picasso, Derain, Braque, and Modigliani, among others—continues to this day. This classic study reveals the astonishing variety and expressive power of the art of a continent that contains more distinct peoples and cultures than any other. The revised edition has been updated throughout, incorporating recent research and additional illustrations, plus a new chapter and extended bibliography. It remains an invaluable resource for students and for anyone interested in African art.”
Kota: Visions of Africa Series: Visions of Africa Series by Louis Perrois
“The Kota people, who live in Gabon in the coastal area of western equatorial Africa, have developed an astonishing creativity in representations of their ancestors. Dreamlike figures combine a sharp sense of stylized reality tending toward abstraction with an extraordinary and imaginative use of copper, tin, and iron for purposes of decoration. But what seems at first to have been a matter of aesthetic taste has in fact a symbolic function, as most of the decorative motifs and the choice of the technique are linked to the kinship system or religious beliefs. The reliquary figures and initiation masks of the Kota and Mbete served both as aide-mémoires and as instruments useful in arousing the forces of the netherworld among the Gabonese and Congolese in times past. Together with the Fang byeri and other nkisi punu, they have gradually become the time-honored emblems of a culture paying tribute to ancestral values of the peoples of the African equatorial forest.”
From a customer review: “Not only do they cover how art has influenced the individual, but also how religion and style have influenced the art. One of the outstanding features of these books are the black and white photos illustrating how the various art forms were used and the colour plates exhibiting various types of art from masks to chairs with captions describing each item”
Kongo: Power and Majesty by Alisa LaGamma
“Artists from the kingdom of Kongo—a vast swath of Central Africa that today encompasses the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola—were responsible for outstanding creative achievements. With the influx of Portuguese, Dutch, and Italian merchants, missionaries, and explorers, Kongo developed a unique artistic tradition that blended European iconography with powerful indigenous art forms. An initially positive engagement with Europe in the 15th century turned turbulent in the wake of later displacement, civil war, and the slave trade—and many of the artworks created in Kongo reflect the changing times.
This comprehensive study is the first major catalogue to explore Kongo’s history, art forms, and cultural identity before, during, and after contact with Europe. Objects range from 15th-century “mother-and-child” figures, which reflect a time when Europeans and their Christian motifs were viewed favorably, to fearsome mangaaka, power figures that conveyed strength in the midst of the kingdom’s dissolution. Lavishly illustrated with new photography and multiple views of three-dimensional works, this book presents the fascinatingly complex artistic legacy of one of Africa’s most storied kingdoms.”
African Art by Stefan Eisenhofer, Norbert Wolf (Editor)
“With examples from every region of the continent, “African Art” demonstrates the wide variety of creative design and describes the social and religious background for each piece.”
The Tribal Arts of Africa by Jean-Baptiste Bacquart
“The marvellous achievements of black African artists over thousands of years are revealed and superbly portrayed in this book. The earliest pieces date from the beginning of the first millennium, the most recent from the early twentieth century before the commercial production of art for the tourist trade. All were made by Africans for their own use. Jean-Baptiste Bacquart has divided Africa south of the Sahara into forty-nine cultural areas. Each section studies the most important tribe within that area, surveying its social and political structures as well as its artistic production. The art is analysed according to type in most instances masks, statues, and everyday objects such as utensils, furniture, and jewellery. When appropriate, further information on artistically related tribes is provided. Each section contains lavishly presented colour photographs of all the major object types, documentary black-and-white illustrations, and its own bibliography. A detailed reference section with information on key collections open to the public and a glossary completes this invaluable publication, the only one to present the entire range of black African art in accessible form. 865 illustrations and photographs, 195 in colour.”
African Masks: The Barbier-Mueller Collection
by Iris Hahner, Maria Kecskesi, Lazlo Vajda
“Mysterious, graceful, and majestic, the African mask has long been the subject of great fascination for those interested in tribal civilizations and cultures. Now available in paperback, this beautiful volume presents nearly 250 of the finest African masks from the incomparable Barbier-Mueller Collection, which is unique in its vast number of artifacts and wide geographic scope.The book includes one hundred color plates accompanied by in-depth descriptions, as well as numerous black-and-white photographs of the masks as they are used in religious and secular celebrations. Introductory texts from renowned scholars describe how the masks are constructed, examine their significance in African culture, and offer insight into the universal practice of masquerading. A unique contribution to literature on African art, this book is also a wonderful introduction to countless fascinating, ages-old spiritual traditions still being practiced today.”
Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa Hardcover by William Buller Fagg
“Examines the artistry and religious significance of the masks, headdresses, staffs, and other wood carving and sculpture of the Yoruba tribe of West Africa.”
Mumuye Sculpture from Nigeria: The Human Figure Reinvented
by Frank Herreman (Text), Constantine Petridis (Contributor)
“Through 41 masterworks, Mumuye Sculpture from Nigeria reveals some of the most accomplished statues made by this Nigerian tribal group. The Mumuye artists’ abstract interpretation of the human body, which recalls that of cubist and expressionist artists, has been immensely appealing to African art enthusiasts. Their anthropomorphic figures demonstrate an astonishing range of variations, testifying to their makers’ unbridled creativity and limitless inventiveness. Here, a meticulous analysis of the extraordinary forms of Mumuye figures—paying attention to their striking sense of motion—recognizes different workshops and even the hands of individual masters. A summary of the scant field-based studies discusses the figures’ primary role as emblems of status and rank, their connections to ancestral veneration, and healing and divination practices. Though a selection of masks and other objects, this book reveals the beauty of Mumuye figurative sculpture.”
Baule Monkeys by Claessens Bruno, Danis Jean-Louis
“The Baule people of the Ivory Coast are renowned for their refined sculptural work of masks and figures. This book is the first to focus exclusively on an antithetic aspect of Baule culture—rough zoomorphic sculptures representing monkeys. These awe-inspiring bowl-bearing figures evoke invisible powers and serve their communities through the mediation of diviners. Investigating the creation, forms, and usage of the sculptures, the authors shed light on the cultural and ritual contexts in which they operated. Beautifully illustrated with over 55 full-page color images of works in public and private collections, this important publication also includes many unpublished field photographs.”
African Art by SCALA (Creator)”
“The art of sub-Saharan African has a long history, although it is difficult to reconstruct precisely because many works, being made from wood and earth, have disappeared without trace, and archaeological excavations, which could enrich out knowledge of the region, are still rare. Nonetheless, what has been preserved–largely works from the past 150 years, although there are some which date back even thousands of years–is already substantial and provides evidence of a great variety of artistic traditions, which can be traced back to broad historical and geographical areas and to ethnic or tribal groups. Although they may vary from place to place, some elements seem to be recurrent and common to all African artistic traditions. Statues are often figures of ancestors or deities and sacrifices are offered to them to maintain communication with the other world, between gods and humans, between the living and the dead. The fertility of women and the fields is another recurrent theme. In societies with no writing system, art offered material support for the word, also facilitating the transmissions of traditions. While much attention is often paid to form, objects are almost never created solely for pleasure. These works are not the expression of the artists’ free imagination nor are they intended for the individual enjoyment of a collector. Far more ambitiously, their purpose is to contribute to the order of the world, the well-being of the community, and to maintaining life.”
Spirits Speak: A Celebrations of African Masks by Peter Stepan
“Over 150 images of outstanding African masks from the world’s leading museums and private collections reveal the splendour and majesty of these fascinating masterpieces. The masks seen in these pages represent diversity and an aesthetic power that rivals the most famous works of art from around the world. Originating from more than thirty countries, the masks featured here are shown in stunning full-page reproductions and accompanied by field photographs. Enlightening commentaries offer background information about the function and origins of the masks use within the ethnic groups from which they originate. A beautifully produced full-colour fold-out map places each mask in its original site, which together with the stunning reproductions, field photographs and text, creates a magnificent celebration of African artistry and culture. It is the ‘best of’ African masks book. “Prestel’s African Masks” by the same author has sold over 40K copies worldwide.”
Masks of Black Africa by Ladislas Segy
“In this stunning collection, 247 photographs of masks, identified by tribe, place, and ritual use, are featured. Dogon, Senufo, many more.”
Because the History of African tribal art is also very important, I will leave you with two very interesting reading suggestions, which contain a view into a bit of history of African tribal art:
African Art In Transit by Christopher B. Steiner
“Based on extensive research in West Africa, Christopher Steiner’s book presents a richly detailed description of the economic networks that transfer art objects from their site of use and production in Africa to their point of consumption in art galleries and shops throughout Europe and America. In the course of this fascinating transcultural journey, African art acquires different meanings. It means one thing to the rural villagers who create and still use it in ritual and performance, another to the Muslim traders who barter and resell it, and something else to the buyers and collectors in the West who purchase it for investment and display it in their homes.”
History of Art in Africa
by Monica Blackmun Visona, Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole
“A groundbreaking work, this is the first book to cover the arts of the entire continent of Africa, including Egypt, and to survey the art history, rather than the cultural traditions, of African peoples. The authors’ unique synthesis of up-to-date research on African arts of many periods and geographic areas has resulted in a major contribution to the literature of art history.
Thousands of years of African art, from prehistory to the present, are considered, encompassing sculpture, painting, architecture, textiles, ceramics, and the myriad art forms of personal adornment and performance. Individual authors contribute chapters on their areas of expertise, yet the whole volume works as a seamless text, weaving together everything from prehistoric Saharan rock art to contemporary sculpture, including the rich, multi-faceted art of the African diaspora. Brilliantly illustrated throughout, and including full indexes and bibliography, this volume is a milestone in the study and future perception of African art.”
This list could go on, but I am going to leave you with this last suggestion which I believe is probably one of the most comprehensive and well-illustrated book on African Art which is still in print is “African Sculpture Speaks” by Ladislas Segy. Please see above his other book on African mask, which I can highly recommend, “Masks of Black Africa”.
This list could go on but I am going to leave you with this last suggestion which I believe is probably one of the most comprehensive and well-illustrated book on African Art which is still in print is “African Sculpture Speaks” by Ladislas Segy. Please see above his other book on African mask, which I can highly recommend, “Masks of Black Africa”.
African Sculpture Speaks” by Ladislas Segy
“Historian and collector Ladislas Segy approaches African art from several different but interrelated perspectives, considering sculptures first as products of a distinct African culture, then as high-quality works of art. Seeking to bring the African carver’s work within the scope of the Western observer, Segy stresses the need for appraising African art within its own context, suspending established procedures for art appreciation and viewing the object as it actually is, not as we think it is or should be. Bringing to bear the disciplines of aesthetics, anthropology, psychology, and phenomenology, Segy shows how the deep-seated magico-religious beliefs of the tribal carver creates such a powerful emotional tension in the work that the viewer can recapture that emotion and identify it as part of his own experience. Originally published in 1952—revised and enlarged over the years— African Sculpture Speaks is now in its fourth edition. A systematic style guide analyzes the characteristic features of the different styles of tribal sculpture, and a special chapter for the collector tells how to buy and care for African art. Segy also discusses the styles of the main sculpture-producing tribes in East and South Africa. Included are maps, a bibliography, a list of illustrations, and an index.”
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