Early African Art History - Africa for Kids

Early African Art for Kids

Blombos Cave ocher
Geometric lines engraved on red ocher stone
(Blombos Cave, South Africa, about 80,000 BC)

People were producing art in South Africa even before the first people left Africa for other parts of the world. The earliest art we know about comes from Blombos Cave in South Africa, from about 80,000 BC.

Cats rock carving
Wadi Methkandoush cats
Sahara Desert, ca. 10,000 BC (modern Libya)

About 10,000 BC African art takes off. All the way across the whole Sahara Desert people started to create rock carvings of animals. There are rock carvings in Niger, in Libya, in Sudan and in Egypt. Some of the carvings show people. Other carvings show cats or giraffes or other animals. These Saharan carvings are the ancestors of later Egyptian carvings. The figures are seen from the side, and they stand one picture on top of another in rows (like comic strips), just like later Egyptian carvings.

Niger giraffe rock carving
Rock carving of giraffes. Tenere Desert (modern Niger), 10,000-7000 BC

By 3000 BC, Egyptian artists were doing very similar carving, but thanks to the rich Nile River and a lot of trade with West Asia, Egypt was richer and could afford better carvings.

Kerma head
Head from Kerma (modern Sudan),
about 1600 BC.

Not long after, the artists of Kerma (along the Nile River in northern Sudan) were producing art in styles related to the Egyptian art to their north. Like their Egyptian neighbors, the artists of Kerma made blue faience statuettes. But the Kerma statuettes clearly show African hair and features.

Learn by Doing - African art project
Advanced version of Early African Art from Quatr.us
More about Iron Age African Art

Bibliography and further reading about African art:

Or check out this article on African art in the Encyclopedia Britannica (unfortunately there's not much on early African art though).

More about Iron Age African Art
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