Artwork Essay Sample-African Art

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Ceramic art is one of the best areas of art and architecture because it leads to creation of a wide range of objects. Through ceramic art, it is possible to make figures and artistic objects from clay. Ceramic art can be divided into fine art, applied art, and decorative art. In most cases, decorative art is referred to as “art pottery”. Through ceramic art or pottery, it is possible to make a variety of objects using clay only. Art is a very expensive field that needs protection from the public to save the pieces from vandalism. Most of the pieces are preserved in art galleries or museums. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is an example of art museums in the world. LACMA is one of the biggest museums in the whole world with at least 100, 000 pieces of art and hosts millions of visitors annually. This paper entails description of a piece of African Art found at LACMA. It is easier to describe the artwork in terms of material presence, the cultural setup, and the influence of the culture on the artwork.

Description of the Ceramic

The ceramic is a clay artifact of a human head that represents a cup. It is an African art with roots in Democratic Republic of Congo. The art represents the culture of the Kuba people in the 20th century. The height of the art is approximately 17.2 cm. It is therefore relatively smaller as compared to the other artworks in the museum.

Image of the Art

LACMA, Retrieved from

This piece of ceramic is very detailed and thus possesses the common material presence that is similar to the other ceramics. There are clear guidelines of pottery that most people follow while making their ceramics. This art conforms to all of these guidelines. This art work has an approximate material presence in terms of the type of clay, forming techniques, surface treatment, glazing and firing.

            The type of clay to be used to make a piece of ceramic art is an important element that an individual should consider before working on the art. The two common types of clay are low-fire clay and high-fire clay (Glendale). Low-fire clay is used for brighter ceramics while high-fire clay is used to make dull ceramic. Being dull as it is, this piece of artwork was made from high-fire clay. The thickness of the art also signifies the probability of applying higher temperatures during then firing stage. This implies that the clay should be able to tolerate the high temperatures.

            Forming techniques are dependent on the shape and size of the artwork in progress. The key forming techniques include wheel method, coil method, pinch pots method, string method, and slab methods. This artwork conforms to two forming techniques that include pinching and coil methods. The art’s external architecture indicates that it is a product of the above forming techniques. For instance, a feature such as the extension at the back of the neck is as a result of coiling. Additionally, the smaller elements of the art such as the ears are as a result of pinching. Slab method or potter’s wheel could not work for this piece because it is irregular and relatively smaller.

            The artwork’s surface treatment entailed additional features that would make it conform to the potter’s intentions. The artwork is very detailed on the surface due to the numerous designs and decorations. There are indentations on the surface of the cheek and forehead to display tattoos. The finishing on the head to represent the hair is as a result of drawing lines on the surface using a relatively think object. The impact of surface treatment is shown all over the artwork and enhances its beauty.

            Glazing is a pottery technique that gives a ceramic an appealing external surface that has different colors. A glaze is a combination of water and other coloring materials or clay (Glendale). The glazing technique that was used in making this artwork was brushing. A close observation of the artwork indicates brush-border lines. Brushing seemed to be the best glazing technique for this artwork because of the fine details that it was meant to display.

            The last step in the process of pottery is firing. Firing removes water from the artwork to reduce instances of breaking. This piece of art must have undergone two instances of firing. The first instance was before glazing for the purpose of enhancing the effects of glazing on the surface architecture. The second firing was after glazing and it was at high temperatures above 400o F. The temperatures can go up to at most 2500o F. it is evident the artwork was fired because of its resilience to the effects of external environment. Consequently, surface features and color are indicative of the effects of fire on the ceramic.

            Culture is one of the many influences that can be reflected on a piece of artwork. This artwork is African, from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It represents the culture of the Kuba people in that country. The Kuba people exist in a political 0073ystem where the king is the ruler of specific groups. Art is one of the tribe’s greatest traditional socioeconomic practices (Rebecca 36). The Kuba people are fond of creating cups from palm woods and other ceramic ingredients. The artwork discussed above is a reflection of the Kuba culture in terms of their curved cups. They prefer curved cups to normal flat cups. They respect architecture and thus the reason behind their decorated artifacts. Decoration is part of the central African culture (Schildkrout and Keim 12). They depend more on art that other cultural practices. Most often, the Kuba people spend a lot of time curving and designing different arts. As far as their religious practices are concerned, the Kuba people used to worship gods and fore ancestors. They therefore reflect their traditions through art and other cultural artifacts.

            The piece of work relates to numerous encounters that I have come across in my life. I know that people identify themselves through a certain culture that is inclusive of art. Art is a key identifier of a certain culture and its people. I also understand that making an artwork is a lengthy process that requires solitude and resilience. Additionally, the work made me appreciate art even more. The most interesting this about the art is its surface architecture. The artist might have wasted a lot of time on the drawings and surface finishing. The details are amazingly unique and attractive to the viewer. I also love the color and size because it can be placed anywhere. Understanding the art is simple because of the specific elements that it displays on the external architecture. It is also easier to understand because of the fine details of art that are easily noticeable by the naked eye. It conforms to the contemporary techniques of artistry. 

Works Cited

Glendale.  Art 186 - Intro to Ceramics Steps in the Ceramic Process. Web. 11 Feb, 2014.


LACMA. Cup. Web. 11 Feb. 2014. <>

Leuchak, Rebecca. Kuba (Zaire). New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 1997.

            Print. Schildkrout, Enid, and Curtis A. Keim. The Scramble for Art in Central Africa. Cambridge,            UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.

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