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An alternate definition is "art by untutored or untrained artists." This word either describes the specific artistic movement which emerged as a reaction to the Enlightenment, or any attempt to idealize artworks or artefacts that are judged to be relatively simple or primitive.
The term "Folk Art" is used to refer to artifacts exemplifying the craft skills and decorative traditions of various indigenous social groups, such as those of peasant communities in Europe and elsewhere.
More evidence of modern man's early art, achieved before migrating to Europe. Namibian and Somali Cave paintings Drawings of animals were found on the Apollo 11 Cave Stones in Namibia (24,000 BCE), while in Somalia, paintings in the Laas Gaa'l caves at Hargeisa were found to contain prehistoric engravings and drawings of men and women worshipping cattle and performing religious rituals. San Cave Paintings These 3,000-year old paintings were found at Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg, South Africa.
They portray animals and humans, and are thought to represent religious beliefs.
The Yoruba tribe in Nigeria were skillful carvers of figures in the round, and often crowned their usually massive masks with groups of highly animated mannikins, as if a party were in progress.
Among the Yoruba, too, as well as in some other tribes, such was the standard and prestige of African sculpture that sculptors could achieve a status and prestige somewhat similar to that of a successful artist in the West.
A good deal of tribal ritual is based on initiation into age-groups - into the young men's or old men's "societies" - each of which possesses its separate emblems and cult motifs; many carved figures, as well as masks, are associated with such "societies", and often symbolize patron Gods or deities such as the God of Thunder or the God of Fire.
Carved figures are as widespread and popular as masks, and like the latter, relate to ritual, although some tribes - such as the prosperous and settled Baule on the Ivory Coast - made carvings almost as luxury goods.
It is sometimes called Primitive Native Art, and includes artworks (and crafts) from all ethnic groups.
Often these images spoke for the spirits of the dead, thus perpetuating the vital essence of tribal ancestry, and becoming identified with the ancestral spirits.
Although there are secular aspects to most of the forms used, and some artistic objects are purely decorative and ornamental, in general, African tribal artefacts were created as religious art - for a particular ritual or ceremonial use.
This is true not only for masks and figurines but also for carved items ranging from musical instruments, sceptres and ceremonial axes to stools, doorposts and doors.
Although the individual craftsman or artist might be recognized and highly regarded as a member of the community, the conception of the thing made as a "work of art" in museum terms was very rare.