The Influence and Popularity of African Art in Turkey

The Influence and Popularity of African Art in Turkey

December 19, 2023


In the vibrant tapestry of global art, African art holds a distinctive thread. With its rich diversity, profound symbolism, and unique aesthetics, it has captivated audiences far beyond the borders of its origin. One such place where African art has found a receptive audience is Turkey.

The influence and popularity of African art in Turkey is a fascinating subject, shedding light on the intercultural dialogue between Africa and Turkey. This topic is not only relevant in the context of art history and cultural studies, but it also reflects broader socio-political dynamics and mutual influences.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable surge in the interest and appreciation for African art in Turkey. This can be seen in various art exhibitions, galleries, and even in the incorporation of African motifs in Turkish design and fashion. The reasons behind this trend, its implications, and its future trajectory form the crux of our discussion in this article.

As we delve into this topic, we will explore the various facets of African art, its reception in Turkey, and the cultural exchange it fosters. We aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon, highlighting its significance in today’s globalized world.

Understanding African Art

African art, with its deep-rooted history and diverse forms, offers a rich tapestry of cultural expression. It is the visual manifestation of the African continent’s vibrant cultures, traditions, beliefs, and histories.

History and Characteristics of African Art

African art is as old as the continent itself, with the earliest known artworks dating back to the Stone Age. These early works, often in the form of rock art, provide a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of our ancestors.

One of the defining characteristics of African art is its functionality. Art in Africa is not merely for aesthetic appreciation; it is deeply intertwined with the social, religious, and political fabric of the society. It serves various purposes such as religious rituals, celebrations, and rites of passage.

African art is also characterized by its symbolism. Every form, color, and motif has a specific meaning, often representing concepts, ideas, or deities. The art is a visual language, communicating messages and narratives that are integral to the community.

Visual Arts of Sub-Saharan Africa

The visual arts of sub-Saharan Africa are incredibly diverse, reflecting the region’s multitude of cultures and ethnic groups. These include various media such as:

  • Sculpture: African sculpture is renowned worldwide, particularly for its figurative representations. These sculptures, often carved from wood, stone, or ivory, depict human and animal figures, embodying the spiritual and physical world.

  • Painting: African painting encompasses a wide range of styles, from rock paintings to murals and body art. These paintings often use natural pigments and are rich in symbolism.

  • Pottery: Pottery is an ancient art form in Africa, used for both functional and decorative purposes. African pottery, with its intricate designs and patterns, reflects the region’s rich artistic tradition.

  • Textiles: African textiles are known for their vibrant colors and complex patterns. They are often used in clothing, interior decoration, and ceremonial occasions.

  • Masks and Jewelry: Masks and jewelry hold a special place in African art. They are used in various ceremonies and rituals, symbolizing different spirits, ancestors, or deities.

The Artistic Landscape of Turkey

The artistic landscape of Turkey is as diverse and vibrant as its geography. It is a rich blend of various influences, reflecting the country’s historical and cultural journey.

History of Turkish Arts

The history of Turkish arts is a fascinating narrative of evolution and synthesis. From the ancient civilizations of Anatolia to the powerful Ottoman Empire, each era has left its indelible mark on Turkish arts.

The Hittites, Phrygians, Urartians, and other ancient civilizations contributed to the early artistic traditions of Turkey. The Roman and Byzantine periods brought new artistic forms and techniques, particularly in architecture and mosaic art.

The Seljuk era marked the advent of Islamic influence in Turkish art. This was further consolidated during the Ottoman period, which is often regarded as the golden age of Turkish arts.

Influence of Islamic Art and Ottoman Arts

Islamic art has had a profound influence on Turkish arts. This is evident in the intricate geometric patterns, calligraphy, and arabesque designs seen in Turkish architecture, ceramics, and textiles.

Calligraphy, considered the highest form of art in the Islamic world, holds a special place in Turkish arts. The elegant scripts adorning mosques, palaces, and manuscripts are a testament to the skill and creativity of Turkish calligraphers.

The art of “Ebru” or marbled paper is another unique aspect of Ottoman arts. This traditional art form involves creating colorful patterns by sprinkling and brushing color pigments on a pan of oily water and then transferring this pattern to paper. Ebru is not just an art, but a meditative practice, reflecting the Ottoman’s pursuit of beauty and spiritual depth.

In conclusion, the artistic landscape of Turkey is a rich tapestry of diverse influences and traditions. Understanding this context is crucial to appreciate the reception and influence of African art in Turkey.

Case Studies

In recent years, several pieces of African art have gained significant popularity in Turkey, resonating with the Turkish audience due to their unique aesthetics and profound cultural narratives.

One such piece is the “Dancing Sankofa”. This is a wooden sculpture originating from Ghana, representing the Sankofa bird, a symbol of the importance of learning from the past. The intricate carvings and the dynamic posture of the bird have captivated Turkish art enthusiasts, making it a common sight in art exhibitions across Istanbul.

Another popular artwork is the “Maasai Warrior” painting from Kenya. The vibrant colors and bold strokes used to depict a Maasai warrior in traditional attire against the backdrop of the African savannah have struck a chord with the Turkish audience. The painting’s theme of bravery and resilience is universally relatable, contributing to its popularity.

On the other hand, several Turkish artists have been known to incorporate African elements into their work, creating a fusion of styles that is both innovative and captivating.

One such artist is Ayşe Özlem Yıldız, a contemporary painter based in Ankara. Yıldız’s work often features motifs and symbols from African cultures, blended seamlessly with traditional Turkish elements. Her painting series, “African Impressions”, is a testament to her fascination with African art and culture. The series showcases her unique style, where the rich and diverse African heritage meets the depth and complexity of Turkish art.

Similarly, sculptor Ahmet Uğur, known for his bronze works, has been influenced by African art. His sculpture series, “Echoes from Africa”, features figures inspired by African tribal art. Uğur’s work is a celebration of the human form, capturing the strength and spirit of the African people while paying homage to his Turkish roots.

These case studies highlight the growing influence and popularity of African art in Turkey, and the increasing trend among Turkish artists to draw inspiration from the rich and diverse tapestry of African cultures. This cross-cultural exchange of art and ideas not only enriches the Turkish art scene but also fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of African art and culture.


This article has explored the growing influence and popularity of African art in Turkey, highlighting how this rich and diverse art form has resonated with the Turkish audience and artists alike. We delved into specific examples of African art pieces that have gained popularity in Turkey, such as the “Dancing Sankofa” sculpture and the “Maasai Warrior” painting. We also discussed Turkish artists like Ayşe Özlem Yıldız and Ahmet Uğur, who have incorporated African elements into their work, creating a unique fusion of styles.

The cultural exchange between Africa and Turkey, as seen through the lens of art, has significant implications. It not only enriches the Turkish art scene by introducing new aesthetics and narratives but also fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of African cultures. This trend is indicative of the increasingly globalized world of art, where boundaries are blurred, and inspiration is drawn from a myriad of cultures and experiences.

Looking ahead, this cultural exchange is likely to continue shaping the future of art in Turkey. As more Turkish artists draw inspiration from African art, and as more African art pieces find their way into Turkish homes and galleries, we can expect a continued diversification of the Turkish art scene. This ongoing dialogue between African and Turkish art is a testament to the power of art in bridging cultures and fostering mutual understanding and respect. It is a trend that holds promise for the future, signaling a more inclusive and diverse era for art in Turkey.

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Size Guide

Centimeters (CM)

Inches (IN)

50CM x 40CM

19 11/16 in X 15 3/4 in

50CM x 50CM

19 11/16 in X 19 11/16 in

60CM x 60CM

23 5/8 in X 23 5/8 in

70CM x 50CM

27 9/16 in X 19 11/16 in

80CM x 60CM

31 1/2 in X 23 5/8 in

100CM x 80CM

39 3/8 in X 31 1/2 in

140CM x 110CM

55 1/8 in X 43 5/16 in