The Art of Africa

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

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

Illuminated Gospel
This 15th century manuscript is based on Egyptian Coptic sources, but its creators imbued it with local flair.

Illuminated Gospel

Detail, Crucifix, 16th-17th century, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Angola; Republic of the Congo, solid cast brass, 27.3 cm high (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
During its brief fling with Christianity, the Kongo kingdom merged western iconography with local aesthetics.

Crucifix (Kongo peoples)