Traditional African art plays a major part in the African society. Most ceremonies and activities cannot function without visual art. Such ceremonies include singing, dancing, storytelling, spiritual dreams, and relationships with the opposite sex. According to James Stephenson, “art is a way to express trust in your own wordsdrawn to create a symbol that is pulled out of you.” He believes art, or literature should illustrate the lifestyles or problems of a certain group of people. In the book Language of the Land, James Stephenson discusses about the Hadzabe tribe. James Stephenson uses many glimpse of art, or literature to portray African art.
There are three basic themes of African art. The first is the realism among the people of the bush. Most African tribes, particularly the Hadzabe, embellish the details when they are telling stories. This embellishment is done to create the mood of the story. For example, when Jemsi is at Mama Ramadan, he describes the cowgirl as a “superstar flying in spaceships filled with thousands of male lovers” (Language of the Land pg.67). Then some of the other Hadzabe says, “the cowgirl was their girlfriend” (Language of the Land pg.67). When Jemsi says he is making it up, all the Hadzabe start telling there own exaggerated stories. This proves that their art of story telling engages your mind, feelings, and body. Another similar example of how Jemsi captures the minds of the Hadzabe is when he talks about “the bearits claws are the size of Sitoti’s arms, it is fast as the lion. It can cut trees down with its claws, and hunts, eats men. Sometimes it will come into camp the camp, and sleep next to you. Then if you wake and move; it will kill you, or do the jiggi-jiggi with you” (Language of the Land pg.117). This just shows how gullible the tribesmen are toward each other’s stories. This type of visual or spoken art describes the Africans ability to over express the idea to the extreme.
The second theme of African art is the problematic relationships between the sexes. The Hadzabe are shown as the type of people who would use harmless devices to deal with the problems and issues concerning the relations between the sexes. For example, when Sitoti was telling one of his stories of how he scared Swahili girls by “wading up like a slow moving crocodile and leap at the women washing their clothes” (Language of the Land pg. 63). They referred to him as “water demon.” Sitoti has fun playing around with the opposite sex with mere small tricks. This artistic device expresses the feelings of the Hadzabe. Another example, is when Jemsi “hands him man of my large, black plastic spiders in exchange for money, but whenhe opened his hand, his smile vanished, and a look of horror swept over his face” (Language of the Land pg. 166). Like Sitoti, Jemsi has fun “messing around” with different tribesmen. This type of art is a type of playful art used within the book to describe the Hadzabe.
The third theme is the struggle to control natural or supernatural forces.
African art is traditionally essential and optimistic. Without
art, there would be no African culture.