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That this happened is understandable, given the demands of colonial administration, but this historical contingency cannot help in understanding the dynamic of stylistic variation in Africa.
The sense of identity that individuals and groups undoubtedly have with others, which was misunderstood as “tribe” but which is better referred to as “ethnic identity,” is something that derives from the relationship built up through many different networks: whom one can marry, one’s language and religious affiliations, the chief whose authority one acknowledges, who one’s ancestors are, the kind of work one does, and so forth.
African art, the visual arts of native Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, including such media as sculpture, painting, pottery, rock art, textiles, masks, personal decoration, and jewelry.
For more general explorations of media, It is difficult to give a useful summary of the main characteristics of the art of sub-Saharan Africa.
It may be a field of well-hoed yam heaps (as, for example, among the Tiv people of Nigeria) or a display ox castrated in order to enhance its visual effect (as among the Nuer and Dinka pastoralists of South Sudan) that constitutes the significant work of art in a given area of Africa.
The important point is that particular traditions encourage creativity.Painting in Africa was long presumed not to exist to any significant extent, largely because it was to be found on the skins of human bodies, on the walls of houses, and on rock faces—none of which were collectible.Clearly, the aesthetic field in Africa is not so limited.It is also often assumed that the African artist is constrained by tradition in a way contrasting with the freedom given to the Western artist.But, although there are traditions of art in which the expectations of patrons demand repetition of a set form in African art, there are also traditions of precolonial origin that demand a high level of inventive originality—for example, Asante silk weaving and Kuba raffia embroidery.