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By Richard Dowden

After a lifetime’s shut statement of the continent, one of many world’s best Africa correspondents has penned a landmark e-book on existence and dying in glossy Africa. It takes a advisor as observant, skilled, and sufferer as Richard Dowden to bare its truths. Dowden combines a novelist’s reward for surroundings with the scholar’s seize of historic switch as he spins stories of cults and trade in Senegal and standard spirituality in Sierra Leone; analyzes the impression of oil and the web on Nigeria and relief on Sudan; and examines what has long past so badly incorrect in Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo. Dowden’s grasp paintings is an try to clarify why Africa is how it is, and allows its readers to work out and comprehend this fantastic continent as a spot of suggestion and great humanity.

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The reality of the situation is however 56 Ola Balogun far more complex than either of these generalizations indicates, for it is obvious that both the utilitarian and the magico-religious dimensions are part of an all-embracing sculptural mould. One of the best-known categories of sculpture are commemorative statuettes of ancestor-figures, and ritual statuettes of gods that are placed in religious shrines to represent divinities or devotees of the gods to whom such shrines are dedicated. These statuettes are conceived basically to serve a religious function, hence a conceptualization that relies heavily on symbols and emblems of the essential attributes associated with the god or ancestor figure.

A frequent feature of the masquerade is the mask, which covers the face of the masquerader. This is by no means a compulsory feature, since the effect of dissimulating the human features and suggesting a different presence can also be achieved through covering the face with cloth or a thick veil or even by daubing paint on the face. In some cases, as in that of the devotee who is recognized as an avatar of a god through possession, the presence of the divinity is essentially established through the behaviour of the devotee, hence there is no need for a mask or face disguise.

Since it is essentially through social organization that man has been able to dominate nature, and art plays a vital role in helping to bind men together in organized social groups, it is from the point of view of its civilizing role that art is perhaps best defined. Thus art may be said to be the olclest and most eloquent testimony of man’s social presence on earth. In any given age and society, the content and form of artistic endeavour is influenced by, and necessarily reflects, even if only by dialectical inversion, some of the beliefs, hopes, preoccupations and aspirations of that society and time, because art acts as a vehicle for social communication and cohesion.

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