Tribal Art, African Masks & Bead Necklaces

Utilitarian Art Tells a Story

Maasai bead collarWhen we consider tribal art, most will think of masks and sculpture. With a few notable exceptions this kind of African art is concentrated amongst the people of West and Central Africa.
The reason for this is not hard to find. The great forests from Central Africa up to West Africa provide a good source of wood to carve. The dappled light and shadows of the forest are evocative of masks, sculpture and associated spirits. The people in these places tend to live sedentary lifestyles- most are farmers and tend to stay put in one place.

In contrast the art of the East African pastoralist peoples’ is utilitarian and often overlooked despite its charm and cultural significance.

Read more: The Material Culture of East Africa’s Pastoralists

Millefiori Trade BeadsThe history of glass beads traded in Africa and used in our beaded necklaces. Many scholarly articles have been written on this subject- below is a very simple introduction to what is a vast and complex subject.

Venetian Trade Beads

The history of glass beads found in Africa is inextricably tied up with the history of Africa’s diverse people. The story of trade beads is a tale of adornment, exploitation, trade and slavery. Like so many aspects of this magnificent continent the story of glass bead trade is both sad and beautiful.

Read more: A Brief History of Glass Beads in Africa

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