African American Styles

African American Styles

The United States is populated by peoples originating from all parts of Africa. Some of these people of African descent are recent arrivals to American soil while others can trace their African American lineage back several hundred years.

Just as there is a rich cultural diversity of peoples making up the United States population, there is also a rich cultural diversity of the peoples of Africa.

This rich cultural diversity of Africa has carried forward into African American styles of dress, music, art, and all aesthetics of everyday life in America. While specific tribal influences have diminished over time and distance, there is still a distinctive African flair that can be found in many works created by African Americans today.

Speaking from the New York Center for African Art, Susan Vogel describes some of the fundamental elements of African American styles derived from generally accepted African aesthetics.

Luminosity reflects smooth shiny surfaces evoking images of beautiful, healthy skin, kissed by the African sun.

Youthfulness and vitality are common themes seen in different African American styles of art, especially the physical arts like dance, music, and sculpture.

Self-composure is depicted as the proud, controlled subject of the work; cool, as it comes from the African word kule.

Clarity, complexity, balance, and symmetry often come together in works depicted in African American styles of music, dance, storytelling, and other vocal and visual arts.

The human form is often the subject of the work, indicating the mastery of the African peoples over the lush diversity of flora and fauna flourishing throughout the African continent.

Quilting is one form of art that vividly displays all these homeland-inspired African American styles in color, design, composition, and subject. A quilt made by an African American artisan is often as much a story-telling instrument as it is a domestic comfort or work of textile art.