First off, you need to know that the phrase African art normally refers to art that comes from Sub-Saharan Africa. Although, there is, of course, plenty of art that was created in northern Africa, that art was often influenced by the ancient Greeks or Romans, Islam, or Christianity. On the other hand, the art that comes from the lands to the south of the Sahara is, dare I say, more African.Classical African Sculpture
Probably the most widely-known examples of classical African sculpture are the Nok terracotta sculptures of men and animals that are around 2,500 years old and come from Nigeria’s Zaria province. Also from what is now Nigeria are the Ibo Ukwo bronzes which have been dated to around 1,000 AD. It is thought that these mace-heads, vessels, beads, and other items are the earliest bronze work made in this area of Africa.
Although there are plenty examples of terracotta, metal, ivory and other forms of African art, ancient African art is best known for its wonderful wooden pieces. In fact, masks and other wooden African art pieces housed in European museums were so striking and impressive that the famed European artists such as Picasso and Matisse were heavily influenced by them.
In West Africa, Mande-speakers have long created wooden sculptures of humans that are known for having rounded legs and arms and flat faces. Another famous grouping of wooden human sculptures are the Tellem figures which tend to have uplifted arms and are either female or hermaphrodite.