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When important disputes are to be settled, the priest carries the Mask to the meeting of the elders and places it on the ground under a white cloth. The Bushmen's anxieties are expressed in their myths, their ceremonies, and their rites, and they are represented too in their paintings and engravings.
Bangwa sculpture has drawn inspiration from these twin parents and there are a number of statues of women and men carrying twins or wearing the symbols of twinship. Tradition is renewed by the artist's individual inspiration and the use of external influences. Bushmen are the oldest known natives of South Africa, although exactly when they appeared, and how far their history dates back, remains a mystery. Small weights cast in brass were also produced in order to weigh gold dust. The chiefs themselves wear splendid cloths and ornaments, sit on high, ornate stools, and sleep on elaborately carved beds.
The difference is due to the natural conditions of the country, although it is generally assumed that engravings are more archaic than paintings. The objects used in initiation ceremonies present a complex of symbols that help translate the essence of Lega society and thinking from bwame elders to initiates. Throughout Africa, art objects are used in the divination of the supernatural causes of illness. The shrine of the lineage is in the form of a stool to which the head of the lineage offers food for the ancestors.
Elsewhere, masquerades and other ritual performances use masks and carved figures to enact basic myths. The Bambara, a Mandinka group of more than one million people living in Mali, have become noted for their metalwork, basketry, leatherwork, weaving, dyeing, and woodcarving. Mbari is not only religious art but also a source of pleasure. Their beauty derives from their naturalistic but highly simplified form.
Radiocarbon dating and oral traditions suggest, for example, that the naturalistic style of sculpture at Ife lasted for about as long as bronze-casting in Benin. At important council meetings the Mask attends to ensure the presence and approval of ancestors. Ibo art, like all African art, manly dating tips is marvellously eclectic. Dyed plumes are added to the top and striated horns to each corner.
In the Kumasi stoolhouse there are ten black stools preserved in memory of ten Ashanti kings. Detailed comparative studies aided by radiocarbon dating have located them in historical contexts and continuing traditions.
Secret Societies Mask Art Chiefs and wealthy individuals are not the only patrons of art. Art frequently serves as an adjunct and symbol of the powers of lineage and clan. The Hottentots are also a yellow-skinned race, so closely resembling the Bushmen that, according to some experts, it is inadvisable to separate them. The bronzes of Ibo Ukwu were discovered in when a cistern was dug in the village. Both parents are given special attention and they are initiated into a religious association which plays an important role at fertility ceremonies and funerals.
In Africa, as well as in Europe, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a chief or an oligarchy often results in a local renaissance of the arts. The Mask is the symbol and oracle of the priest, who, as judge and clan leader, is allowed to keep the mask on behalf of the Poro. The Bushmen of the Kalahari desert, for example, hunt in an inhospitable environment, leading a life dominated by their absolute dependence on immediately available resources for survival. The Fulani of west Africa are a case in point.
Of particular interest are several polychrome paintings in the Tassili mountains representing graceful human figures with dappled cattle close by. The blue is particularly unusual and does not occur in the cave paintings of Europe. The Mask takes responsibility, for example, for the death from poisoning of someone who has undergone the sasswood ordeal. Skin-covering may be used, as among the Bangwa and Ekoi, to achieve textural rather than symbolic effects. Among the Ashanti, trade in gold and slaves brought great wealth to the kings who made the working of gold a court monopoly.
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