Friday, January 06, 2017

African Batik Art

The art of batik or wax painting is an ancient craft and technique used in Africa and many East Asian countries for decorating fabrics. The batik images or effects are achieved through the principle of wax and water repelling each other, called resist dyeing.

The artistic expression of working with melted wax on dyes is similar to that of painting with watercolor, oils or acrylics and the designs can be as complicated or simple as the artist's desire.

Since batik is a method of painting "negative space", the artist has to envision the complete design in-between shapes and figures when deciding where to apply the next color and the next application of wax.

Wax is painted on to the fabric and the color is filled into the fabric between the wax. The most popular ways of applying wax are either by painting it on with a brush or by pouring the liquid wax on the cloth. With a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps the individual colors of the batik are applied.

After the last dyeing, the fabric is hung up to dry. Then it is ironed between paper towels or newspaper to absorb the wax and reveal the vibrant colors and fine crinkle lines that give the batik its character.

African batiks are unique pieces of art handcrafted by talented artisans. If you like to decorate with textiles or showing off your love for unique fabrics, then African batiks are definitely for you.

From home decor to quilting and other crafts, batiks will enhance any project with true African flair. Frame a batik, transform a batik into a wall hanging by simply stretching it with bamboo poles, make a pillow case out of batiks, decorate a handbag, make a lamp shade or incorporate a batik into your quilting project.

Let the batik speak for itself and let the beauty be in the eye of the beholder.

Article and image courtesy of World Travel Art - Great selection of African batiks from Mozambique and Tanzania.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

African Rock Art

Image courtesy of
Dr. Katherine Bolman
Ahaafoundation, Honolulu, Hi 96822
Rock paintings and engravings are Africa’s oldest continuously practiced art form.

Depictions of elegant human figures, richly hued animals, and figures combining human and animal features—called therianthropes and associated with shamanism—continue to inspire admiration for their sophistication, energy, and direct, powerful forms. 

The apparent universality of these images is deceptive; content and style range widely over the African continent. Nevertheless, African rock art can be divided into three broad geographical zones—southern, central, and northern. 

The art of each of these zones is distinctive and easily recognizable, even to an untrained eye.

Not all rock art in these three zones is prehistoric; in some areas these arts flourished into the late nineteenth century, while in other areas rock art continues to be made today.

In the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa, a number of rock paintings depict clashes between San (Bushmen) people and European colonists mounted on horses and armed with rifles. Many of the Drakensberg works use subtle polychrome shading that gives their subjects a hint of three-dimensional presence.

pstrongThe Linton Panelstrongbr Image courtesy of the South African Museum Cape Townp
The Linton Panel
Image courtesy of the South African Museum, Cape Town

The product of many authors, time periods, and cultures, the flowing naturalism and lively sense of movement of the best rock art attests to the conviction of masterful hands and trained eyes.

Article courtesy of: Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. “African Rock Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: (October 2000)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Art and the Fulani/Fulbe People

Bowl, Geometric Pattern,
19th–20th century; Fulani

Fulani people; Mali, western Sudan
Above all, Fulani people are known for their mastery of verbal art expressed in song and poetry.

Fulani nomads do not change their fashion as frequently as other sedentary groups, thus traces of past aesthetic traditions tend to be perceptible in contemporary times. Fulani often entrust members of specialized castes or foreigners with the fabrication of their objects. Thus, the label "Fulani art" reflects ownership and not manufacture. Leather amulets, knife handles, sheaths, and sandals are decorated with geometric designs that reflect Fulani symbolism and bear the influence of Tuareg and Berber aesthetics. Objects are tinted in bright colors of red, yellow, or white and green, and often feature long fringes. Some of the designs are cross ethnic: the zigzag bordered by parallel lines, for instance, is shared by Fulani and Dogon alike.

Fulani aesthetic expression is, with exceptions, inscribed on objects or sites of an ephemeral nature. Above
Textile Blanket (Khasa), 20th century; 
Fulani people; Mali, western Sudan
all, Fulani people are known for their mastery of verbal art expressed in song and poetry. They are also renowned for their elaborate art of body adornment. Men and women alike are fond of tattooing. They wear amulets (lohol) as both protective and decorative elements. Women wear heavy twisted gold earrings (dibi), gold necklaces (caaka), and copper or white metal bracelets, round or open with bulging extremities, and delicately engraved with dotted lines. Blacksmiths used to make heavy and thick anklets that gave young Wodaabe women a "cowlike" step, much appreciated in this herders' culture. Women from other Fulani groups wore copper or brass leg ornaments or anklets made by the lost-wax casting process. These rings might once have served as currency.

Men's clothing includes a conical herdsman hat—in red, black, and natural color—made of woven raffia and leather, with geometric design in the form of a cross, complete with a prominent button, the "Mount of the world." Men also wear leather or baggy fabric pants, and use woven blankets with geometric patterns. Wodaabe people are famous for organizing male beauty contests, know as yaake or gerewol.

Fulani women, who are in charge of building the family tents or temporary shelters, weave wall and floor mats. Besides nomadic architecture, they specialize in the decoration of calabashes and wooden bowls (la'al kosam). Calabashes are pyro-engraved with a combination of abstract and figural motifs and colored with pigments. In the cow-centered Fulani culture, milk bowls are also important objects for the household. They are used as storage containers for fresh, curdled milk and grains. An artifact, symbol of the pastoral life and of the cooperation between men who keep the herd and women who milk the cows, the la'al kosam encapsulates Fulani identity. Because of their delicate chiseling, smoke-derived patina, and exquisite decorative treatment, bowls and calabashes could be considered as the true focus of aesthetic efforts of the Fulani people.

Citation. Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. "Art and the Fulani/Fulbe People". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.