Throughout the course of African history there has been a significance contribution to the art of the different cultures. After reading and studying about various regions and cultures the similarities and differences all seem to link to a fascinating group of people. Exploring different groups of objects and cultures broadened my knowledge of particular traditions within the African culture. Visiting an actual exhibition contributed to a deeper level of understanding with the visual aids in close reach at the museum.
I visited the Brooklyn Museum‘s African art exhibition and was very impressed and pleased with my findings. The group of objects that I focused on were made of the same material, and also derived from Mali. Two of the pieces I am focusing on are from the same culture, and the other is from a different ethnic groups. The Karaga mask is a form of art found in Mali used by the Dogan people. The Dogon people lived in villages that were built upon cliffs in northern and eastern Mali. The Dogon people created a wide variety of masks throughout their cultures, and over seventy masks are known to the public.
The Karaga masks are used for ritual purposes in various ceremonies among the villagers. The knowledge held by the tribal elders is passed to the members at the ceremonies where the mask is used. The structure of the object is a large towering wooden structure with black shading. The shape of a box, sharp slender nose and two pairs of double L shaped arms are very significant. The arm extending down is representing the earth, and the other arm is reaching toward the heavens. The masks are used during several Dogon rituals, and are left on the ground to deteriorate quickly after a ceremony.
Although the Karaga mask that I saw had an unknown artist this was a three piece mask from the twentieth century. The dancers in Mali honored the deceased with this work of art. The Toguna post is also a piece of art from Mali. This work of art was originated in the twentieth century also from the Dogon people. The Togu-na are shelters that consists of carved posts that are wood beams supported with layers of stalks. 1 The thick roofs of stalks absorb the sun providing a coolness to protect the piece of art.
The breasts on the post symbolize women and their nurturing power. The Dogon culture also symbolizes femininity. The Togu- Na is the most important building in the Dogan village because it is the meeting place for the men who are leaders in the community. The men also use the Toguna post to interact with the spirits of the deceased. The final object that I observed at the museum was the Chiwara. I briefly studied this object in class prior to my visit, but I was truly fascinated with the structure and history of the piece of art.
This ritual object also derives from Mali, but is used by the Bambara ethnic group in that region of Africa. The mask is used during dances as rituals. The Chiwara is grouped in three different groups which are horizontal, vertical, and abstract. 4 The women mask have the baby with straight horns, and the men’s horns are bent. The Chiwara which is an antelope is a wooden figure attached to the dancers head during a ceremony. Wood and metal are the main components of the structure. These three different objects all relate back to the region of Mali, and all are made from wood.
The qualities have many similarities and the uses for the object as well. They all are visibly made from wood and anyone can identify this characteristic. The fact that all of these objects also are made of metal was interesting as well. Although only two of the objects are from the same group, the presence of their identity is visible throughout Mali. The differences include the various types of ceremonies these would be used for. Not all are used for dance, but are significant to be present at the gathering.
The techniques for these objects also have many similarities, and I believe that is because they are in the same region. In conclusion, Western Africa has a tremendous role in African art. The techniques and appearances are amazing to view and research. I preferable like the region of Mali and that is why I chose to focus of these three figures. I wish to further my knowledge of art form Mali at other museums in the state, and even the country. I enjoyed the similarities of the pieces and made it easier to grasp the history and culture of the art.