Unlike the art of Wester societies, traditional African art is a functional and necessary part of everyday life and it would be impossible to understand African culture without an understanding of their art. The figures or masks were the vehicles through which these spirits made themselves seen and their presence known. Sculpture also served to symbolize authority and played important roles in maintaining social control. African sculpture is new and unfamiliar to most Americans and yet it is the product of ancient civilizations and many centuries of artistic tradition. Initially the masks and figures may seem strange or even grotesque, but when viewed in terms of their own cultures the sculptures of Africa can be seen to be sophisticated, powerful and dynamic.
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