Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2007 12:18:58 -0800
From: Skip Cole <scole@...>
Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: POLY CHROME PAINT
Surely color in African art long predated the use of western paints, and since polychome means many colors, polyschrome was there too, although black, white and red (with its variations, from yellow to orange to red, often from camwood or varied clays) have long been the most common prevailing colors, and date way way back. Colr is of course used in the cave painting both in the Sahara and in southern Africa. Coler was also intoduced to objects, such as those in Cameroon, through bead applique and using cloth, as in Bembe Niombo figures that
date back to the 19th century. Washing blue was introduced at least as early as the 19th c, possibly the late 18th and has been selectively used over wide areas (west african and the Congo, Yaka masks, for eg).
Those are a few additional notes.
Quoting Rand African Art :
> I finally have some answers for you from Herbert M Cole (aka Kofi Kole).
> I'm sorry for the huge delay, it was my fault. I get so behind on
> personal correspondence emails sometimes that I don't feel I can ever
> catch up. It's a goal of mine for the new year to get better, and
> faster and getting back to people.
> Since the question was asked some time ago, I'll repeat it for
> people who are new to the group.
> You asked:
> "Can someone give me an education on the
introduction of polychrome
> paint in African art?"
> When I had originally started looking in various books that I
> thought would most likely contain answers to your question, at least
> for specific cultures, I was surprised that I found almost no
> reference at all to the introduction of polychrome paint (aka
> European oil paints) to the cultures even though the introduction of
> paint dramatically changed the aesthetics of a lot of their art.
> (Mainly books on Senufo, Bamana, and Yoruba)
> When I emailed Mr. Cole, I prefaced the email with a statement that
> I was sure it was impossible to nail down a date since the
> introduction most likely occurred in various cultures at different
> times depending on trade routes etc., he agreed, and provided the
> response below:
> "Hi Rand:
> As you suspect, the dates vary according to area, but I'd
> that some Yoruba pieces were painted with enamels in the teens and
> twenties, rather later for the Igbo. Some Akan things were painted
> with euro colors in the 30s, maybe even in the 20s, but by the 30s
> many Fante drums almost depended upon the newly available variety of
> colors. Fon things were also painted early.
> Then if you count the use of recketts blue, "washing blue" surely
> it appeared in
> 19th c yoruba art, esp in hairstyles and other selected details.
> Bozo and Bamana puppets, though, were probably not painted with
> enamels until the 50s, but after that they were common. Probably
> there has been more use of enamels in masks than in figures, in part
> because masks tend to be rather more secular, like puppets, whereas
> "tradition" and traditional colors prevail in most shrine sculpture
> long after enamels are used for other things. And of
> African people never used enamels at all. The Dogon started painting
> toguna posts I think in the 1980s only. Dogon masks sometimes now
> show western pigments, but not very often, same with Burkinable
> masks; some Burkina peoples used them in the 70s and 80s, probably
> even more today, and they are common today in Ibibio masks and have
> been for 25-30 years, but selectively. As far as I know western
> paints have not caught on much in Cameroon, Gabon, and the Congo,
> though there are a few Kongo images that -- if not
> pigmented with western oils, at least were probably inspired by the
> coloration of western statuary.
> The above is an impressionistic review, not well-documented or very
> precise, but
> I hope it answers some of your questions."
> So, as you see, it can vary depending on culture and depending on
> object. Some cultures
that were living in the coastal areas had more
> significant contact with European and Western peoples who introduced
> various types of trade items to these cultures. You would assume that
> the cultures of these coastal areas, and cultures not far from these
> coastal areas, would be the first cultures that you would start to
> see incorporating polychrome paint into objects they produced.
> Cultures in inland Africa, down the rivers on the trade routes you
> could assume would have these paints introduced to them next and you
> would start to see the incorporation of the paint in their objects
> soon after.
> Was there a specific object that you were posting your question about?
> I appreciated having Herbert M Cole (aka Kofi Cole) take the time
> to respond to the question. For those of you who aren't familiar with
> him, he spent a lot of time in Africa doing field
research on various
> cultures which resulted in the publication of many books. He also
> taught Art History at UC Santa Barbara for many years. You can find
> out more about him on his About Me page on his website:
> Recently he started carving miniature African masks and statues
> which are incredibly detailed for their size. He showed me a group of
> them last year at the San Francisco Tribal Arts Show and I really
> loved them.
> If you haven't seen his carvings before, below is a link to his
> website, they're definitly worth checking out!
> Craig Lewis wrote:
> Rand, Antwan,
> I think that painted works predate the 20thC but by how far I'm not
> sure. I know of a Gelede mask in Manchester museum that
> collected, (if my memory serves me well) in the 1860's and painted
> with European oil paints. Also I'm sure that painting
> with "traditional" natural pigments goes even further back than that.
> --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Rand African Art
>> Hello Antwan,
>> Well, I'm stumped. I've looked through lots of books that I have
> and can't find specific reference to dates as to when the production
> of masks and objects started including polychrome paint. As with
> many other things, I would guess it was introduced as a trade
> material in the early part of the 20th century, but that's only a
> guess on my part.
>> The only reference I found was about Senufo masks, but it was
> pretty general:
>> "Older examples of the Wanyugo made in the 1950's prior to
> iconoclastic ravages of the Massa religious movement, are marked by
> a strikingly simple composition. More recent versions, in contrast,
> show great elaboration and are brightly painted."
>> I sent an email to Herbert M.Cole, who is an African art
> historian, and I will see what he knows about the subject and I will
> share it with the group.
>> Antwan Martin wrote:
>> Can someone give me an education on the introduction of
> Poly Chrome Paint in
>> African art?
>> Antwan Martin