Africa has a very rich history of art, design and tribal traditions that all contribute to Africa’s many styles of design. One of the main things that stands out about Africa to me is the rich colour scheme used within all their typography, clothing, artwork and weaved throughout the culture. Below are some examples of these amazing colours within patterns.
The first impression I get of the African style is that it’s very fun and flamboyant, almost like somebody is expressing their excitement through the fabrics and patterns themselves. These beautiful & decorative have been applied throughout many different areas of design, architecture and many more – they seem to be the veins of African design, laying the foundations for many traditional and cultural artistic methods to be applied.
Below are some examples of the traditional clothing of Africa, you can see how there are bright colours and patterns incorporated into most of these outfits. Even if the clothing is minimal, the other tribal ‘decorations’ such as jewellery are crafted beautifully from natural aspects such as shells and brightly coloured beads.
Secondary to clothing in Africa is body art and face/body painting which is almost like a form of clothing in itself. Some of these ancient practices are still visible in Africa today and in my opinion are close to a form of art, I find some of these to be almost like mandalas in the way they mosaic around each other to create beautiful patterns. Scarification is something that africans achieve via making abrasions on the surface of the skin in certain patterns to achieve an array of scars in different shapes and patterns. The result of this painful process is breathtaking, almost like a form of tattooing but more beautiful in my opinion. This can be undergone as part of a ritual or right of passage, tribe members with high rank may also undergo scarification, piercings, stretchers and face/body painting.
Some of the face painting/scarification techniques used on humans can sometimes be seen on carved masks. These are ritual masks that differ depending on the rituals and the different parts of Africa as you can see below, they are all different but bear the same flowing style of bright colours (where applicable) and promenant patterns.
Next up is typography. This is a rather wide spectrum to cover, though as far as first impressions go, most of the fonts of Africa are very much thick, tribal and every letter almost looks like it has been painted to create a picture. In modern British society all of these fonts would be associated with zoos and safaris, its almost like todays society has adapted the african style to represent these things and it’s often used in theme parks and animal exhibits so guests will instantly know it is from that particular part of the world.
Another part of Africa that resembles the typefaces in certain ways is the architecture, it is blocky and some of it has features that are carved to look decorative and interesting, almost like tribal symbols while still being art at the same time. One of the main aspects of this design style is their functionality, they are made to serve a purpose and do exactly that.
In my opinion I think there is a chance all of these aspects of Africa are in some way influenced by the animals that reside in Africa, also the beautiful scenery the continent holds. Below are some examples of the animals native to Africa. Even when the animals are not colourful and don’t have any distinct patterns, their features are unique and flamboyant much like the angular designs of the native Africans. When it comes to the elephant, deep wrinkles can be seen creating a web of intricate rivers throughout the animals body, it could be simple features like this, or maybe the unique patterns of more bright animals such as zebras or giraffes that influence tribal painting and scarification.
The traditional art of Africa often sees the humans depicted as lean and tall, all wearing these bright colours.