WORLD SPIRITUAL ART:Amazing spiritual art

What is African Art?


The Japanese have learned various things from Europeans since the Portuguese first arrived at Tanegashima island in 1543. Guns, globes, the use of perspective, glasses, the cultivation of pumpkins, watermelons, corn, and tobacco were all learned from Europeans. There are innumerable
European influences on Japanese culture. However, the Japanese referred to Europeans as “ Nanbanjin" which means “barbarians from the south”.
Meanwhile, in European the ancient Greeks also called the people who did not speak Greek “barbar”. This word is the root word for “barbarians”. In the Roman period, people who were not of Roman or Christians were also called “barbar”. People believed that their own cultures or thoughts were more valid and so better than others. Therefore, they tended to discriminate against other people who had their own distinctive cultures or way of thinking. Instead of accepting others, they preferred to think different people were barbarous and inferior. This kind of prejudice is common all over the world. In the European colonial period, the lack of respect for other peoples' culture led to many abuses and the exploitation of the native people. These brutalities arose from a failure to accept that others may have a valid culture.
In 1906, Pablo Picasso was astonished to see an African sculpture which was shown by Matisee who visited Picasso’s studio. The African sculpture showed totally different concepts and perceptions of beauty that differed to the European ideal. In 1907, Picasso presented the famous paint “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon”. It is well known that as a result of this inspiration he had begun a new art movement called “Cubism”.
In Japan, it is not common to know other cultures and histories besides European and Chinese history and culture. However, there are as many distinctive cultures and ideas as there are different people living around the world. Moreover, it is far from established that the arts of scientifically advanced or civilized countries are always better than others. The native people who live in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Himalayas, and Japan have their own characteristic cultures and thoughts. Their arts are often a strong and beautiful expression of their heart felt ideas. The concept of “Globalization” has existed for a long time. Knowing and understanding the cultures and arts of various people around the world could be the beginning of “ true globalization”.


Images of people wearing masks were drawn on cave walls at Tassili n’Ajjer in south Algeria in 4000BC. These masks are similar to the ones the Gere or Wobe use in the Republic of Cote d’ Ivories. However, the people wearing the masks do not appear to be the ancestors of the Gere or Wobe. Long ago when the Saharan Desert was grassland, evidently these masks existed. The African Art Museum introduces African art created from west Africa to the forest lands of central Africa. Masks, Stature, textiles, instruments, and tools which have been created through a long period dominated by the belief in animism. This has produced art which has a characteristic style. Ideas of African art are the opposite from straight lines, circles, plane figures, balls, clean shapes, repeating patterns, symmetric, or photographic ways of realism which are pursued by the European and the Chinese. Forms which don’t exist in the natural world are not preferred in African art. Instead, deformed and exaggerated forms are esteemed in their art. Terra cotta figures from the Nok culture from 2,500 years ago were already showing an exaggerated oval face and triangular eyes. In addition, the excessively deformed masks from Democratic Republic of Congo represents another one of the African aesthetic senses.


Oceania is the south pacific region including Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, the Solomon islands, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa are all located in these three areas. As many diverse cultures and arts have existed as there are different ethnics groups living in the region. The people who live in the regions of Oceania had retained their traditional cultures until the 1960's when they began to be effected by modern civilization. As a result, their characteristic cultures have faded quickly. Many people use the ocean and river in their everyday lives and so many original patterns are found to relate to water. However, most of these unique forms and patterns are related to their religious beliefs associated with ancestral worship or animism.


70 distinctive ethnic groups live in Indonesia and the Philippines. The Democratic state of Indonesia revived its independence after world war Ⅱ. The Indonesians came to Java and introduced Hinduism and Buddhism. After Borobudur was established by the Sailendra dynasty in 8~9th century, the Mataram kingdom, Kediri kingdom, Singhasari kingdom, Majapahit kingdom, and Mataram sultanate were continuously established in Java. The colonization of Java begun after the Dutch East India Co. established a trading base there. The African Art Museum will not only introduce the arts of the various Java dynasties but the arts of other ethnics groups will be introduced in the museum. The Batak and other ethnicities who have their own traditional cultures live on Sumatra island, Nias island, Sumba island, and Timor island. Their art shows characteristic expressions and patterns. Elaborate ikats woven with high skill are well known. Diverse ethnic societies in the Philippines mainly supported their living by rice production. Their cultures and arts are also interesting and unique.


These people have inherited the mountainous lands around Himalaya, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and northern India. The origin of how they begun to live in the mountainous land is simply unknown. A strong existence of simple masks and statues has long been present in the regions. Moreover, characteristic arts which were influenced by Tibetan Buddhism have existed in Himalaya and the golden triangle regions.


Asia is a broad region ranging from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, to Japan. Uncountable religions and cultures are present in Asia. Many ethnic groups exhibit traces of Chinese influence in their arts. However, each ethnic group has pursued their own culture. The Ainu in Japan is one of these groups.

The part of the African Art Museum collection is
exhibited in this section.

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