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The sculpture of the peoples of Africa has long attracted connoisseurs of the whole world with its originality and dissimilarity to the usual works of traditional Western art. The undoubted advantage of the works of African masters is their peculiar understanding of the reality of the image, as well as the sacred nature of all art.
Magic figurines are the largest group of sculptures in tropical and southern Africa. For Africans, these sculptures are the embodiment of the forces of nature, they are able to accumulate the energy of life and release it. Most often they are small figures of a person with large horns, between which a mask is placed (usually this is an image of the leaders of the tribes, shamans, healers and other people with strong energy).
African masks make up the lion's share of museum collections of African culture in Europe and America. The mask is an indispensable attribute of most magic rituals, holiday processions and ritual dances. Most often there are masks made of wood, less often of ivory. Despite the fact that African masks are characterized by unusual diversity, each of them is made in accordance with the strict canons of the tribes.
Sculpture in traditional African culture is closely connected with the cult of ancestors. The works of the masters read a special view of the world, the desire to express the emotional world of a person, a special aesthetic that defines beauty as proximity to nature, expediency and harmony.
Views on aesthetics in Africa differ from European ones. Often, from the point of view of a European, sculptors pay too much attention to the genitals of the people depicted. However, within the framework of the cult of fertility, this is a natural and indispensable technique. The abstractness and schematic image of the body and facial features can also be explained by a special attention to the inner world, as well as a connection with the cult of ancestors. Every sculptural image is closely connected with the world of the dead, which is very different from the world of the living and is an image of the inner essence of things in the mind of the master, expressed in a complex code language.
In addition to images of people and gods, many sculptures are images of totem animals, as well as zoomorphic images. World museums are full of the most true masterpieces of African sculpture of the peoples of the Congo, Mali, Cote dIvoire, etc.
The special plasticity, lines and emotionality of African sculptures at the end of the 19th century had a strong influence on the emergence of new trends in European painting. Such masters as Picasso, Braque, Matisse, inspired by the abstraction of African sculptures, created their best works.
Modern African sculptors work in a traditional manner, but use modern materials, including plastic, but the main material remains wood and ivory. According to tradition, ivory sculptures are the attributes of royal palaces, therefore they are made especially carefully and exquisitely.