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Exploring Contemporary and Classical Art: A Comprehensive Journey Through the Years

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African art has a rich history and has been a source of inspiration for artists all around the world. From classical art forms to contemporary styles, African art has continued to captivate audiences with its diversity and creativity and this has not changed even today. In this article, we take a deep dive into the classic and contemporary genres of African art.

The Classic Genre of African Art

The classic genre of African art are the traditional art forms that have been created by various African cultures over centuries. This genre includes sculptures, masks, pottery, and textiles, among other things. These artworks are often rooted in the culture and mythology of the community that created them, and they were used for a variety of purposes, such as religious ceremonies, funerals, and coming-of-age rituals.

Seeing Cowries: Wangechi Mutu 2023

One of the most notable forms of classic African art is the masks that represent the different deities, ancestors, and other spiritual entities. They were often used in religious ceremonies and festivals, where they were worn by dancers and other performers. The masks were believed to have the power to connect the living with the spiritual world, and they played an essential role in the religious and cultural practices of many African societies.

Sculptures hare also a big part of Classical Art. African sculptures are expressive and intricate in terms of design. Different communities sculpted using various materials, such as wood, bronze, and ivory, to depict the connection between nature and humanity. African sculptures in some cultures, for example; Egyptian Culture, they were used to represent power and authority, similar to the Romans.

The Contemporary Genre of African Art

Contemporary African art are artworks created by modern African artists using a range of media, including painting, sculpture, and photography. This genre is often characterized by its use of bold colors, expressive forms, and innovative techniques. Contemporary African artists , just like their ancestors before them are inspired by their cultural heritage, their environs, social and political issues, and the global art scene.

One of the most notable contemporary African artists integrating both classical and contemporary genres with an aspect of modernity in his work is El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor creates large-scale installations made from discarded materials. His works often explore themes of African identity, history, and globalization.

Clay : El Anatsui, Imbroglio 1979

Classical African art continues to be one of the major influences in contemporary art and the world is slowly catching on, imitating and even mimicking various aspects of our ancestral creatives. This growing recognition is helping to bring attention to the diversity and creativity of African art and is providing new opportunities for African artists to showcase their work.

The classic and contemporary genres of African art are both unique and diverse. Classic African art forms have a rich history and are deeply rooted in the culture and mythology of African societies. Contemporary African art is characterized by its bold colors, expressive forms, and innovative technique. Still, it does not deviate from our culture.


Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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