Influence On Western Art

In the early 1900’s, European artists were facing a struggle between the avant-garde style that had been established and a more contemporary realism that was emerging. The avant-garde style was daring in its approach, pushing boundaries and negating definitions. The new style, however, focussed on the realistic in its proportions, subjects and media

It was at this important time in the world of art that famous craftsmen like Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Matisse began to explore African art more deeply. As they discovered and uncovered the various forms and subjects of African art, the balance between realism and the bizarre emerged, revealing an entirely new approach. African art presented several realistic forms (often of humans and animals) in one piece, it ignored reasonable proportions and stressed ideologies by excessive over-exaggeration. This forced the spectators and the art world to think about art, rather than just enjoying the colours and subject matter (such as a beautiful landscape). They had to question what was being communicated, urging them to form their own opinions in the face of strong statements. They were no longer able to simply like or dislike a piece for its aesthetic qualities.

This approach to art influenced such artists from around the world to begin to question their own material, subjects, media and intentions. They could use their talent to express concerns and preferences on a platform of self-expression. African art gave artists a new system of representation that did not include anything that had been done before (such as cubism or surrealism). They were now ‘allowed’ to break down and rebuild standard figures in a way that had never been done, rather than just presenting spectators with a completely abstract piece. The real was made abstract at the hands of the artist.

The corresponding effect was that African art began to be appreciated for its aesthetic beauty by investors and art enthusiasts from all over the world. Soldiers and explorers began buying it from the local African people and bringing it back to Europe, assisting the local tribes to establish an industry around their craft. This trend has continued for over a century, and African art continues to permeate the creative productions that emerge all over the world.

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Effects Of Climatic And Environmental Changes On Ancient African Civilisations

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the entire planet earth looked very different to what modern man experiences today. Continents were not yet divided, and the vegetation and animals were different. Significantly, the climate was also vastly different to what it is today. Climate plays an integral role in determining the plants and animal that live in a certain areas, as well as how habitable a place is for human beings.

In fact, even the theory of the evolution of man was dependent largely on the climatic influences on our ancient ancestors. It is hypothesised that the ancient versions of man were forced to walk upright, lose body hair and develop their coordination for survival in a changing environment. New skills also needed to be learned as farming techniques and living habits had to be adapted.

Ancient Africa experienced major vacillations between mega-droughts and Ice Ages, although these fluctuations occurred over thousands and thousands of years. As humans continued to develop and evolve through these phases, they needed to make major adaptations, not only to their ways of life, but also to their personal body structure. Prior to 135 000 years ago, the whole of Africa was lush and fertile, with a tropical climate. Then, the most intense mega-drought ever to occur hit the continent in the period referred to as the early part of the Late Pleistocene epoch. This is believed to have led to the migration of most of our human ancestors into other areas that were more habitable and fertile. Lake Malawi has been used by scientists as a rain gauge to ascertain water levels in ancient times. Research has shown that, during this mega-drought, the lake’s level dropped at least 1968 feet, or 600 metres! Evolutionists claim that this severe lack of water not only pushed ancient man from the area, it also forced aquatic animals (such as fish) to develop the facilities to be able to survive on dry land, thus evolving into land animals.

As people flocked out of the continent, only a very small proportion of this specific generation remained. Humankind as we know it is widely believed to have come from these few remaining on the continent, who evolved significantly and in response to the climatic changes.

These conditions continued until about 70 000 years ago, when the climate was again characterised by wetter conditions. These led to the growth and renewal of fresh vegetation, as well as an increased water supply to the region. More people were in the area during this time of abundance, and the population grew. This increase in numbers eventually led to migrations due to space limitations and the ownership of land.

Then, about 20 000 years ago, an Ice Age overcame the entire earth. This meant that the planet underwent a long-term period of cold temperatures over most of its surface. In places like North America and Eurasia, giant ice sheets covered enormous proportions of the land, making it impossible to farm and, sometimes, even live in these areas. This final Ice Age lasted for about 9 500 years. It forced most of the populations to migrate to the highlands, where they would be relatively protected from the ice sheets. Again, these civilisations had to adapt their farming methods, and change their diet, social habits, clothing and migratory patterns. This forced an evolution to a certain extent. Body hair was necessary to keep people warm, their skin lightened due to a lack of the harsh rays of the sun that they experienced during the mega-droughts, etc…

When this Ice Age came to an end 10 500 years ago, areas like the Sahara were left fertile and healthy. This made it and the other areas like it the ideal spots in which to settle as ancient man began to descend from the highlands. Animals and plants thrived in this environment, which made it very desirable in the eyes of mankind. The abundance of food, water and sunshine again changed the habits and physical structures of our earliest forefathers.

These conditions lasted for some time, but the Sahara in particular continued to experience fluctuations between humid and dry conditions. These eventually left the entire area unable to yield crops or sustain life for any extended period of time. Today, it remains a large stretch of desert. Then, approximately 2500 years ago, the group of people who had made their home in the Sahara began to follow the direction of the Nile River, which held promise of a rich water supply. The arid conditions of the Sahara and its surrounds continue to the present day.

Africa has, since prehistoric times, proven to be a place of fascination, life and evolution. Changes in the climate were often dramatic, and these were, to a great extent, responsible for determining the ancient civilisations that inhabited this vast continent. It is no wonder that many researchers and scientists maintain that Africa is the Cradle of Mankind, and research continues to yield fascinating evidence of this theory.