By Alpha I. Sow, Ola Balogun, Honorat Aguessy, Pathe Diagne
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Extra info for Introduction to African Culture: General Aspects
This does not mean that the artist who has carved the mask is not guided by formal considerations or does not strive for stylistic perfection. It means however that his artistry is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. The carved mask does not signify anything by itself, but because of, and in conjunction with, the context of beliefs 1. Leon Underwood, Masks of West Africa, London, Alec Tiranti, 1964. 40 Ola Balogun and rituals to which it belongs, for the good reason that it is but one of many instruments in a coherent ensemble to which it contributes meaning and from which it derives significance.
There is no doubt that some of the most remarkable achievements of African sculpture can be traced to the important role of nonrealistic conceptualization in the quest for plastic harmony. Being relieved of the obligation to copy directly the outward manifestations of nature means that the African sculptor in the traditional setting has had to devote much thought to the ways of achieving purely plastic perfection in his work, hence the extraordinary quality of artistry that is often displayed in such work.
Form and content are intimately linked in an organic whole, yet independent of each other in any narrow didactic sense. The form is a window to the content in so far as it suggests the presence of a spiritual content by providing a material crucible for the imagination to develop in, but the form never really sets out to be the direct reflection of that content. Like the name of an individual, the outward form of a mask represents in an abstract sense, and the specific plastic technique employed thus emerges as a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
Introduction to African Culture: General Aspects by Alpha I. Sow, Ola Balogun, Honorat Aguessy, Pathe Diagne