The countries making up Central Africa include the Congo, Rwanda, Zambia, Angola, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. The people of these countries have been subject to massive political upheavals and even tragedy. Spiritual and ceremonial elements are of the utmost importance to them. The art that has issued out of this area has proven to represent a combination of these important influencing factors. It makes powerful statements about the various kingdoms and exposes the stark reality of genocide and war.
The Congo River is situated in a valley that is stunning in its proliferation of sizeable trees. This wood has provided the medium from which most of the Central African artists create.
The people of the Congo are renowned for their wooden ‘power sculptures’. They use these as means of providing spiritual insight and power, in healing, to symbolise power from a greater source and for the physical protection of entire villages. These power sculptures are in a human form with only the hands, feet and faces being ornately decorated while the body is left plain.
The residents of Gabon are particularly concerned with ancestors. In order to ensure that these ones are safe and cared for in their after-life, they seal them inside tubes made of tree bark. These are then covered with a lid and topped with a human figure, designed to protect the remains of the dead one. These tubes and the figures perched on top of them have become a respected art form.
The Mukanda Masks of Angola, Zambia and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) have always been popular favourites amongst art investors and tourists from all over the world. Unlike many of the African masks that are made of wood, Mukanda Masks are crafted from tree bark, which is positioned over sticks and coated with resin. While these are traditionally used for circumcision rituals, they make for stunning displays in the homes of locals and foreigners alike.