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The Art Of Influence

Africa And Its’ Influence On Western Art Between The Mid-Nineteenth Century and The First World War
During the mid 19th century up until the Great War of 1914, European countries began to heavily colonize and come into contact with African nations. This was called “new imperialism”. During this contact, European culture was influenced by Africa. The influence of the African people can be seen in the European society of the time. In the 19th and 20th centuries, modern artists embraced African art for its lack of pretension or formal qualities.
In the latter part of the 19th century, the “scramble for Africa,” consolidated at the Berlin Conference, divided the terrain of the African continent among the numerous European contenders. Fourteen countries were represented by a plethora of ambassadors when the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884. The countries represented at the time included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey, and the United States of America. Of these fourteen nations, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Portugal were the major players in the conference, controlling most of colonial Africa at the time. At the point of the symposium, only the coastal parts of Africa had been colonized. The idea behind the conference was to also annex control over the resource rich interior.
As a result of the scramble, the British received control over Egypt, Sudan Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, as well as, Nigeria and Ghana. The French acquired, much of western Africa, from Mauritania to Chad, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Italians established power in Ethiopia and Somalia, and the Dutch controlled the Congo and South Africa. Portugal took Mozambique in the east and Angola in the west. Germans claimed Namibia and Tanzania, and Spain was rationed Equatorial Guinea.
South of the Sahara Desert, there were three distinct types of societies; nomadic tribes in the desert and steppe regions, sedentary farming cultures located in the savanna and “rain-forest fringe” areas, and the ancient
sophisticated kingdoms of Nigeria and the Guinea coast. All three sectors of the African society had different art traditions. However, all three were similar in certain aspects. These aspects being the similar attention to craftsmanship, a general use of non-permanent materials, use of geometric abstraction, and religious orientation.
Religion was at most often marked in masks and sculpture. Masks were used in many ritual ceremonies to embody spiritual forces. Geometric and
naturalistic shapes were combined to represent a recognizable human face. As part of the daily ritualistic routine, families would often present offerings to cult figures, full-body images kept in homes as insurance of protection. The decorative arts, especially in textiles and in the ornamentation of everyday tools, were a vital art in nearly all African cultures. Wood was one of the most frequently used materials—often embellished by clay, shells, beads, ivory, metal, feathers, and shredded raffia.

As the contact between Europeans and Africans grew, parts of African culture assimilated into that of the Europeans. Europeans would bring home treasures found in Africa on their many journeys. These possessions were various forms of African art. Soon after the European colonization, African art began making its’ way into European culture. Some of the African artifacts brought back from Africa with Europeans during the colonization period, were displayed at Paris’ Ethnographic Museum. These tribal or primitive arts of Africa were virtually unknown to many artists until visiting the museum. Pablo Picasso made his first visit in 1907. The artifacts he saw greatly influenced Picasso and his coworkers, such as Georges Braque, who founded the European avant-garde artistic movement of Cubism in the latter part of that year.
Cubism was and still is the most influential movement in the history of modern art. The epoch came in three stages. The first stage, Analytic Cubism, was characterized by the simplification, distortion, and emphasis of the forms of objects. It consisted of facets, or cubes, arranged in superimposed, transparent planes with clearly defined edges that established mass, space, and the implication of movement. During this period, Picasso and Braque employed a palette of muted greens, greys, browns, and

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