African American crafts consisted of pottery, metalworks, wood working, textiles (quilting), and architecture... These were the prominent crafts Africans brought with them to America.
Fine arts consist of: sculpture, painting, graphics, printmaking, and dance. In other words these disciplines are most often developed skill sets acquired by scholarly pursuits.
Crafts on the other hand are considered skills acquired by handwork on functional objects. Today however the line between what is fine art and what is craft has been blurred by the use of mixed media art creations, and the exceptance of craft objects into museums and galleries as hight art forms.
Early Fine Arts:
The end of slavery marked the beginning of many advances in the African American community including the advent of a middle class interested in acquiring material culture of their own. That demand was met by the art of many artists. Most prominent among them Edward Bannister, Henry O. Tanner, Edmonia Lewis, and Josuha Johnson to name a few.
The story of Joshua Johnson's work was obscure and almost lost in history because his paintings were primary of wealthy white patrons. Until recent twenty-first century scholarship he was thought to be white...
|Painting by Joshua Johnson, early African American portrait artist|
History of the Lukasa
A Luba memory device
Central to Luba artistry, lukasa aids memory and the making of histories. Stools, staffs, figures, and complex choreographies complement the lukasa as Luba culture is remembered, produced, and transformed.
Lukasa memory boards are hourglass-shaped wooden tablets that are covered with multicolored beads, shells and bits of metal, or are incised or embossed with carved symbols.The colors and configurations of beads or ideograms serve to stimulate the recollection of important people, places, things, relationships and events as court historians narrate the origins of Luba authority. A lukasa serves as an archive for the topographical and chronological mapping of political histories and other data sets.
Lukasa are approximately the same size (20-25 centimeters long and about 13 centimeters wide) and have the same rectangular dish shape. A row of carved mounds called lukala runs across their concave surface, dividing it in half. Beads and shells are attached to the board by small slivers of wood or hand-made iron wedges driven through their centers, and cowrie shells are frequently attached at the top and bottom. Beads are arranged in three ways: a large bead surrounded by smaller beads, a line of beads, and one isolated bead. Each configuration lends itself to the transmission of certain kinds of information. Board surfaces also have holes and lines cut into them.
Court historians knows as bana balute ("men of memory") run their fingertips across the surface of a lukasa or point to its features while reciting genealogies, king lists, maps of protocol, migration stories, and the great Luba Epic, a preeminent oral narrative that records how the culture heroes, Mbidi Kiluwe and his son Kalala Ilunga, introduced royal political practices and etiquette. For Luba, how an object looks dictates how well it works.
Culture heroes are identifiable by beads whose colors have a fan of connotations triggering remembrance of their deeds and exploits, as well as their qualities and physical appearance. For example, Nkongolo Mwamba, the tyrannical anti-hero of the Luba charter, is always represented by a red bead, for he is the red-skinned rainbow-serpent associated with bloody violence. Blue beads (considered "black") stand for Mbidi Kiluwe, the protagonist and culture-bearer of kingship whose skin is shiningly black like that of a bull buffalo, symbol of ambivalent power and secret potential. The paths of Luba migration and significant events and relationships are indicated by lines and clusters of beads. Chiefs and their counselors, sacred enclosures, and defined places are shown by circles of beads.
TIMELINE OF IMPACT TO AFRICAN AMERICAN FINE ARTS:
- 1865 Emancipation
- 1920's Harlem Renaissance
- 1930's WPA Works Progress Program
- 1960's Civil Rights Movement
- 1970's Onward Contemporary Art
- Mixed Media Art