The Art of Africa

Discover the diverse arts of Africa from select cultures and time periods on the world’s second largest continent.

This cloth—first woven by a wise spider—sends social messages through a system of specific patterns.

Kente cloth

Christian Ethiopian art
Ethiopia’s Christian heritage predates much of Europe’s, and includes churches hewn from living rock.

Christian Ethiopian art

One figure from a Pair of Diviner's Figures, Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire, Baule peoples, wood, pigment, beads and iron, 55.4 x 10.2 x 10.5 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The artistic enhancement of functional objects can reflect and reinforce an individual’s social status.

Art and the individual

Headdress, 19th–20th century, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yaka peoples, wood, cane, raffia, pigment, 45.1 x 61 x 54.6 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
In transitional periods, art objects are often employed to assist rites of passage and reinforce community values.

Rites of passage

Head of an Oba, Nigeria, Court of Benin, 16th century, brass, 23.5 x 21.9 c 22.9 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Art has always played a role in African politics—both in large kingdoms and smaller, village-based societies.

Art and politics