african masksAfrican tribes
Start ]

A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

African Art books I like | Genuine African Masks

African tribes in African art.


see also our real complete african tribes list
See below a list going to the described tribes on this site
Central Africa
South Africa
East Africa
West Africa

African Sculptures and tribes

africa speaks movie

See a 1930 film (+/- 50 minutes) : Africa speaks Ubangi

More African video's

African Antiques newsletter
stay informed join now and get a "free authenticity report" :

museum news auctions fairs exhibitions stolen dealers etc..
I never thought I would receive so much information's about the African art world!

Mail David Norden
Sint-katelijnevest 27  ANTWERPEN-Belgium

If you need assistance call +32 3 227 35 40 

Ethiopian Art
Central Africa
sculpture info

Benin Bronze


Kongo Yombe Bembe
Lega masks
Lobi related: lobi book
Pende mask

Kenya Vigango in situ
Theft of sacred Kenya vigango angers Kenyan villagers The memorial totems are increasingly being stolen to fuel Western demand for African art.

African art statues
African masks
Outside Africa Art antiques
Amazon books
African site map
African Tribes
African art buying tips

Visit our other site with our complete inventory of certified pieces for sale , free delivery worldwide, 15 days guarantee: BuyAfricanAntiques

Join the english african-antiques discussion group 1200 members

Joignez le groupe de Discussions AntiquesAfricaines en Français (250 membres)

Fon Gun -God of Iron and War - Dahomey museum

Fon iron image of Gun, the god of iron and war Dahomey Museum
A fine 2000 years old Nok from Nigeria.(c)collection David Norden.
Height 45cm
A complete African tribes art list, african sculptures and masks description can be found on this website, just browse around. The visual, performing, and literary arts of native Africa, particularly of sub-Saharan, or black Africa, are a very interesting world to discover. The arts include the media of sculpture, painting, textiles, costume, jewelry, architecture, music, dance, drama, and poetry. But, this website concentrate only on the sculptural arts of Africa.
Many illustrations are from items that I sold or are still available.

African arts

West Africa Scholars divide the visual arts of West Africa into three broad areas: the western Sudan, the Guinea Coast, and Nigeria. This is done partly to enable the outsider to comprehend the diversity of styles and traditions within the region, while recognizing that there are themes common to all of the areas.
Central Africa arts are among the most sought after African arts, since many Western countries did have a colonial past.
South Africa, they have some very refined art, but it isn't easy to find. read also The Ndebele people of Zimbabwe
East Africa is geographically complex, ranging from the mountains of central Ethiopia to coastal plains and offshore islands. Farther inland are the great lakes of Africa, forests, and the Rift Valley, the cradle of humankind. Tools and fossil remains of the earliest humans have been found in an area that extends from the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and northward into Ethiopia.
Madagascar Art is in between African and Indonesian art.
African tribes - countries mapCentral Africa tribes Gabon Punu Kota Fang Zaire Kongo-Yombe-Bembe Teke Lualaba River area Mangbetu Mbole Lega Bembe Luba Hemba Tabwa Songye Kuba Pende Yaka Tchokwe & Lunda

West Africa

Dogon-Tellem Bambara
, Dogon, Lobi Mossi Senufo
Bambara ShiwaraBambara dance wood headdress in the form of an antelope
This is the forested region of West Africa, where Islam was not a dominant influence until recent years. Political organizations in the past tended to be small in scale, with government sometimes in the hands of chiefs, sometimes by assemblies of men, sometimes by secret associations manifesting their attributes in masquerade ceremonies. State systems developed toward the eastern end of the region, particularly in areas inhabited by the Ashanti (in present-day Ghana) and Fon (Benin) and in the Yoruba Oyo empire and the Edo kingdom of Benin (Nigeria).

Guinea Coast

Bidyogo Baga Mende Sapi-Grebo-Bassa Dan Ngere Bete Ashanti Asante Baule Guro-Yaure Lagoon Regions: Ebrie Attye Fon Moba-Togo

Guinea Coast sculpture displays a greater tendency to naturalistic styles of representation. Some of the best-known traditions of the area are the following.


Nok Daima and Sao Ife and Yoruba Edo Benin peoples Ijo Igbo Ibibio Urhobo Ekoi Fulani Hausa Nupe
The northern and southern parts of Nigeria can be considered part of the western Sudan and Guinea Coast, respectively; but, because of the wealth of evidence for an artistic tradition of some 2,000 years, it is convenient to consider Nigeria separately.

bura headNorthern Nigeria

Other groups in northern Nigeria

In contrast to the more representational style of terra cotta sculptures created by their neighbors, Bura heads terra cottas are distinguished by a preference for abstraction and simplification.


Some amazon books you could buy:

Ibedji's. J.PembertonIII

Read the book comment Ibedji by Jaques Vogelzang

Tribal arts of Africa. JP. Bacquart

Echoing images at the Metropolitan, read the exhibition text Couples in African Sculpture

Raymond Corbey; Paperback; Buy New: $24.95


Bronzes from Ife and Benin Exhibition from February 3 to April 14, 2007



On both sides of the Niger, but mainly to the east, live the Igbo. Traditionally, they have lived in small and often isolated settlements scattered through the forest. Only on the northern and western edges of the area, under influence from Igala and Benin, are hereditary rulers found. In Igbo society there is strong social pressure toward individual distinction, and men can move upward through successive grades by demonstrating their achievements and their generosity. One of the traditional representations of this was the ikenga, that part of oneself enabling personal achievement, with cult figures representing the attributes of distinction.
The lack of overall centralization among the Igbo-speaking peoples has been conducive to the development of a great variety of art styles and cultural practices. The earliest sculpture known from Igboland is from the village of Igbo-Ukwu, where the grave of a man of distinction and a ritual store, dating from the 9th century AD, contained both chased copper objects and elaborate castings of leaded bronze. The earliest artistic castings from black Africa, these pieces consist of ritual vessels and other ceremonial objects with intricate surface decoration, often small animals and insects represented in the round.
A very great variety of masks is found among the Igbo. The masks, of wood or fabric, are employed in a variety of dramas: social satires, sacred rituals (for ancestors and invocation of the gods), initiation, second burials, and public festivals, which now include Christmas and Independence Day. Some masks appear at only one festival, but the majority appear at many or all. Best known are those of the Northern Igbo Mmo society, which represents the spirits of deceased maidens and their mothers with masks symbolizing beauty. Among the Southern Igbo, the Ekpe society, introduced from the Cross River area, uses contrasting masks to represent the maiden spirit and the elephant spirit, the latter representing ugliness and aggression and the former representing beauty and peacefulness. A similar contrast is found in their Okorosia masks, which correspond to the Mmo of the Northern Igbo. The Eastern Igbo are best known for masquerades associated with the Iko okochi harvest festival, in which the forms of the masks are determined by tradition, though the content of the play varies from year to year. Stock characters include Mbeke, the European; Mkpi, the he-goat; and Mba, which appear in pairs, one representing a boy dressed as a girl mimicking the behaviour of a girl, the other representing the girl being satirized.
Most impressive are the ijele masks of the Northern Igbo, which are 12 feet (366 centimetres) high. Consisting of platforms six feet in diameter, supporting tiers of figures made of coloured cloth and representing everyday scenes, they honour the dead to ensure the continuity and well-being of the community.
Wooden figures are carved for ancestors of both sexes, varying from less than one to more than five feet in height. Those representing founders of the village are kept in a central shrine and sometimes become patrons of the market. A great many other decorative wooden objects are made, including musical instruments, doors, stools, mirror frames, trays for offering kola nuts to guests, dolls, and a variety of small figures used in divination. Shrines called mbari, which contain elaborate tableaux of painted, unfired earth, are made in honour of the earth spirit in villages near Owerri in southern Nigeria; and in Igbo communities to the west of the Niger, elaborate pottery groups representing a man and his family are made for the yam cult. There seems to be no tradition of pottery sculpture in other Igbo groups.


ibibio Heineman Among the oldest sculptures of tropical Africa are several hundred ancestor figures, called ekpu, of the Ibibio coastal trade centre of Oron, some of which are thought to date from the late 18th century. They are bearded figures, three to four feet high, and are so individual as to suggest portraiture, despite their schematic style. Oron is one group of Ibibio-speaking villages. As with the Igbo, Ibibio is not a single group but several networks of independent communities, with local unity represented by secret associations and their masquerades. The Ekpo society uses black masks, often of naturalistic appearance and with movable jaws, to maintain social order and propitiate the ancestors; some of these masks represent disease and deformity.
ekoi jaguar The Ekoi-speaking peoples (Anyang, Boki, Ejagham, Keaka, and Yako) are best known for their large, skin-covered masks, which have two or even three faces, and for their smaller headpieces, which represent a head or an entire figure. The headpieces and masks have metal teeth, inlaid eyes, and frequently pegs to represent hair, which, alternatively, may be carved in elaborate coils. They are used by several masking associations. In the northern Ekoi area, around Ikom, are found circles of large stones, akwanshi, from one to six feet high, carved in low relief to represent human figures. They are thought to be no earlier than the 16th century.


The Fulani are in origin nomadic pastoralists who range from Senegal to the Cameroon grasslands. They are particularly known for their body decoration and for their engraved milk gourds. In addition, in Mali they have settled groups of artists such as goldsmiths, leatherworkers, blacksmiths, weavers, and potters.


Northern Nigeria has long been dominated by the Muslim Hausa who, since the 19th century, have been ruled by Fulani amirs (emirs). For centuries their buildings have been decorated inside with molded and painted low-relief decorations, which have more recently been applied to the exteriors. Both decorative and of a high technical standard are their crafts: leatherwork for saddles, bags, hilts, and sheaths; gold and silver jewelry; ironwork; pottery; weaving and embroidery.


The Nupe have been Muslim for some centuries and are best known for their weaving, embroidery, beadmaking, wood carving, and sheet metalwork. They have produced many doors carved in low relief in a blend of decorative designs. Carved and painted masks are made for the elo, a purely secular performance intended only to entertain (nowadays on the Prophet's birthday). The elo mask has a human face with a motif (sometimes a human figure) rising above it, flanked with stylized horns. The gugu masquerader wears a cloth mask decorated with cowrie shells, but sometimes Yoruba masks are used. The ndako gboya appears to be indigenous; a spirit that affords protection from witches, it is controlled by a small secret society that cleanses communities by invitation. The mask consists of a tall tube of white cotton supported inside on a bamboo pole about 12 feet long.
That Nupe art should have been influenced by the Yoruba is not surprising. Yoruba live among the Nupe, and there are bronzes in the Nupe villages of Tada and Jebba--one of them apparently an Ife work, and another in a more recent Yoruba style. Others of this group, which include the largest castings ever made in black Africa, share features with Benin sculpture and have other elements that are widely distributed in time and space on the Lower Niger. Nupe tradition says these sculptures were taken from Idah, the Igala capital, in the early 16th century. Many were probably already ancient, but nothing is known of ancient Igala bronze casting.

Other groups in northern Nigeria

There is a great diversity of sculptural tradition among peoples inhabiting the Niger and Benue valleys, the mountainous regions around the Jos Plateau in the centre of the area, and Adamawa to the east. This is altogether an area of astonishing diversity little understood beyond a confusing list of "tribal" names. Some of the better known traditions include the Igala, Idoma, Afo, Tiv, and Jukun, all of the Benue Valley
jen-bata 800$
Jen-bata Reliquary Fragment
17th / 18th century
Jen - Nigeria
Height: 20cm
This piece is a Jen or Bata soul vessel. Since ancient times, a number of different ethnic groups in northeastern Nigeria bury their dead twice. In the period between the two burials (several months to one year) a soul vessel is produced to lock up the dead person’s soul so that it can not wander and cause harm. Von Uechtritz and Passarge brought the first vessels and fragments of this type to Europe in 1894. These soul vessels "kusson" had simple pot shaped bodies with hollow tubular arms and a rather baroque or mannerist head. Their provenance was given as "Jen", a small group of around 20,000 people. They are a sub-group of the Bata-Bachama living North of the upper Banue. This piece was excavated in the 1970s. It is centuries old. Jen pieces are rare. Some black incrustations at top are sign of its reliquary use. 20cm.

This tribe page was made with the help from Britannica (not free anymore), and with the book from J-P Bacquart , some maps are from the Guggenheim, and some explanations from , People from Central Africa with objects from the Tervueren Museum in Brussels . Ritual Messengers: African Treasures from the Tervuren Museum, Belgium Features remarkable pieces -- masks, ancestral statues, ritual figurines and many others -- from the world's richest collections of Central African art and culture.

lobi bookread also: Lobi book

Religion and productions of the Lobi
west Africa slave trade. A tragic reminder of the slave trade Tragic reminder of slave trade The Senegalese seem to really like Americans, which may seem odd these days, as ninety percent of them are Moslems.

buy african masks
African masks from Known Collections

African Antiques Newsletter

Build Your Dream Collection !

I never thought I would receive so much information's about the African art world !
Free Newletter.
Subscribe today : 

Free African Art Authenticity Report


african art on facebookDear African Art Collectors,

Discover the African Art books I like or join me on facebook

African Antiques is the archive and not growing much anymore but still updated.

Visit African Art to join our free newsletter and read recent African Art News.

For the last news about  African tribes you should join our African Art Club and become an insider of the African art market.

And if you are a collector of African Art, have a look at our exclusive African Art Collection for sale.

David Norden

Mail David Norden
Sint-katelijnevest 27

Any questions?
Call us at +
32 3 227 35 40

african art | home | african art shop

In this section:

African art books

The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

more African Art books I like

read also : Start ]

Buy David Norden's African Antiques | AA group English | AA Français | Privacy & Earning disclaimer | Become our partner |  The African Antiques newsletter | African Art Club | facebook african art

 mail David Norden phone +32 3 227.35.40