Visual Arts of Africa and Term Paper

  • Length: 16 pages
  • Sources: 8
  • Subject: Art  (general)
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #1167573

Excerpt from Term Paper :

He admonishes contemporary African-Americans to look into the teachings and culture of the ancient Egyptians for inspiration.

Carruthers goes into "The Instructions of Ptahhotep" which contained maxims to instruct in the correct values, modes of behavior and attitudes appropriate to those who would become civil servants from Prime Minister on down. The pharaohs, he speculates, received this teaching alongside children from all walks of life to instruct them on how to deal with all of the people they were to rule over. Even though the Pharoah was expected to be born wise, he also becomes wise through resources, advisors and by studying the records from the past. They were taught to be a good official and what was expected of them as such. The qualities of wisdom and knowledge about their country and the people in it was stressed, while being taught to listen and learn from everyone, even the uneducated. Listening was considered the major source of acquiring knowledge, with the understanding that Maat (Truth and Justice) is the f "oundation of all existence and must be adhered to in all actions" (Chapter 1). Maat is also considered the "Trough of Justice" which is the object of attaining and maintaining education. Listening was so important that Carruthers elaborates on this subject. The good official, he says, is silent and only speaks when there is something worthy of saying. Listening, showing respect and maintaining this discipline is the goal.

African thought also produced the great civilizations and cultures of Africa. This includes Kemet, Kush, Axum, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Zimbabwe, and several other extensive civilizations. It also includes remarkable cultures that represent an advance stage of society which requires no formal governmental structure and yet in which millions of human beings live together in relative peace, with profound theological wisdom These cultures guided and protected millions of Africans for hundreds of years and assimilated most foreign intruders as well as cultural intrusions. It was only in the modern era that these cultures were virtually arrested due to the most aggressive campaign of oppression in history (Carruthers "Afterword: African Deep Thought in the 21st Century and Beyond," p. 24).

Carruthers is an important voice in the study of Afrocentrism and its relationship to the Ancient Egyptians, thus it is annoted in this study. This resource relates only to the historical and philosophical aspects of the topic of the relationship of African-Americans to ancient Egypt. It addresses the art, but has no illustrations. Again, this article is an example of the attempt to relate the literature and art of the ancient Egyptians to contemporary African-American arts without any visual representation of that concept. It did reveal relevant concepts from the ancients that may be used today. This is an on-going process and, as Carruthers quotes Ptahhotep: "The limits of art are never achieved. The skills of the artist are never perfected" (Carruthers 16).

Aldokkan's website article about Ancient Egyptian Art one finds a good reference to what kind of art flourished in which period, including a chart of the various kingdoms with links to their subchapters to click on. If one clicks on the names for the art, such as "pottery" one finds illustrations of that kind of art and comparisons of it with more contemporary or parallel art from another culture. This is very useful when looking up the connections of any of the ancient art with African-American art. Not only are there surprising links and comparisons, but there is information about the Egyptian art that is unusual, such as finding that the tools that helped create the great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza were made of steel. The fact that the Egyptians created steel as early as 2900 B.C. is then discussed. The comparisons with contemporary tools are obvious. Gold was also used to create artistic objects, as was copper and iron. The secrets of origins and the creating of these metals was a carefully guarded secret by the State.

This source shows the architecture, the crafts and sculpture, the paintings, the literature and the music of the Egyptian people. The history of each era was included in a concise, well-described way, such as the Early Dynastic period when a cultural identity was formed. There are stone artifacts and pottery vases and bowls remaining from this era, but no architecture, as buildings were made of brick, which did not survive. The explanation of the arts during this period is very informative, showing how the artisans and servants working for the government developed the tradition of combining arts and learning that continued throughout the pharaonic civilizations that followed. Funerary offerings make up the large part of this artistic period, as some of it remained in the graves untouched. This was largely painted pottery, stone bowls and vases done with particularly fine craftsmanship, ivory carvings, figurines and slate cosmetic palettes. There were also weapons made of flint. Paintings were done on pottery in a "monumental treatment," which means that the figures were formal and stiff, giving a profile view of the face. They were done in red, a tradition which continued from that era on. Towards the end of that period, sculptors began to make monolithic figures of the gods in huge limestone rocks at the mine in Coptos. This led to the next era of the pyramid makers.

This resource is a good one with which to relate to the topic of this paper. The graphics, illustrations, photos and descriptions of the art are excellent. It revealed new information and gave insight into the culture from which these art objects came. Much research could be done through the links of this article into the relationship to Egyptian art to the subject of how the Visual Arts of Africa and the African Diaspora.

Moses' book on Afrotopia, entitled Afrotopia: The Roots of African-American Popular History, delves into the origins of the African-American fixation with their culture and whether or not it came from Egypt. It discusses Afrocentrism, and how the history cannot be separated from the stereotypes dealing with the history of African culture. In the 1980s there was a frenzy of activity surrounding this subject and the topic was dubbed "Afrotopia." Divorcing it from the racial overtones that many black writers cling to with the fervor of a religion, Moses takes the subject seriously and treats it with a historian's objectiveness. He discusses its history, its origins and the differences between the branches of thought within Afrocentrisms and Egyptocentrics, who link black Americans with the ancient men of Egypt. He discusses the artists, such as Alain Locke, Langston Houghes and others in the Harlem Renaissance, who embraced primitivism with those who had come before them, who could not find the link. Moses states "[T]here is a strong possibility that Hyksos princes of Egypto-Semitic culture and language actually established colonies in Greece and set up long-lasting dynasties in the 18th and 17th centuries BC" (p. 313).

This book relates to the subject in that it is about the subject, its history and arguments for and against the concept that contemporary African-Americans are descended from the kings of Egypt. It had no illustrations, except for verbal ones, nor photographs. It did put the subject into context, in that it is difficult to find a direct historic link between contemporary African-Americans and the inhabitants, in spite of all the writings, references and other links that past researchers have created in order to prove this point. It did discuss the African-American art and how it related to the subject. Evidently much of the art by African-Americans during the 1930s was deliberately linked to Egyptian art and in this rich source the artists found inspiration. The book also discussed the social climate of the age in which Afrocentrists lived and wrote, right on up to today.

In H.E. Newsum's article, "A Passage to Afrotopia," published in Research in African Literatures, Vol. 32(4) in 2001, he reviewed essays on the subject of Afrotopia. Afrotopia claims that the Egyptian culture, which included literature and visual arts, was passed down directly to the black population of Africa and thence to other lands when the African Diaspora took place. In his review of Martin Bernal's "Black Athena II," which points out "The Persians under Darius the Great took over, and their domination of Egypt lasted from 525 to 404 B.C. with the assistance of Greek mercenaries.... Toward the end of Greek domination, the expansion of the Roman Empire had transferred the real center of power to Rome. Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome -- the continuing process of transforming a black civilization into a near-white civilization long before the Christian era" (179). Also in this book, he reviewed Chancellor Williams' "The Destruction of Black Civilization," which claims "Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth her hands unto God. --Psalms 68:31." (182). Quoting the author, "The…

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