Why African Paintings Depict Forts

Why African Paintings Depict Forts

October 02, 2023


African art is a treasure trove of cultural expression, reflecting the diverse histories, traditions, and experiences of its people. One intriguing aspect of African paintings is the recurring depiction of forts, which have become a powerful symbol in many artworks. These forts, often built by colonial powers, hold a complex and multifaceted significance in African art. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind the presence of forts in African paintings and the profound messages they convey.

  1. Historical Significance

One of the most apparent reasons forts appear in African paintings is their historical significance. These forts, predominantly constructed during the colonial era, represent a dark chapter in African history. European powers, including the British, Dutch, French, and Portuguese, built forts along the coasts of Africa to facilitate trade in slaves, minerals, and other resources. These structures were often used as centers of oppression and subjugation. By including forts in their artwork, African artists acknowledge and remember this painful history, ensuring that future generations do not forget the atrocities that took place within these walls.

  1. Resistance and Resilience

African paintings featuring forts also symbolize the resilience and resistance of African communities in the face of colonization. Many Africans resisted colonial rule through various means, from armed uprisings to subtle acts of defiance. The presence of forts in artwork can be seen as a reminder that despite the oppressive structures that loomed over them, African societies continued to preserve their cultures and traditions. Forts, which once represented the dominance of foreign powers, now stand as symbols of African strength and tenacity.

  1. Cultural Fusion

African art has a rich tradition of incorporating diverse elements from different cultures and time periods. Forts, being architectural marvels, have often been integrated into African paintings as a way to blend traditional and colonial influences. This fusion represents a creative adaptation of new elements into the existing cultural tapestry. African artists use forts to explore the intersections of different worldviews and historical periods, creating a narrative that bridges the gap between the past and the present.

  1. Allegory for Contemporary Issues

Beyond their historical significance, forts in African paintings often serve as allegorical symbols for contemporary issues. They may represent not only the colonial past but also the enduring legacies of colonization, such as economic disparities, political instability, and social inequalities. Artists use these symbols to comment on the ongoing struggles and challenges faced by their societies, effectively making a statement about the need for change and justice.

  1. Preservation of Memory

African paintings featuring forts play a crucial role in preserving memory and cultural heritage. As time passes, and the generation that directly experienced colonization dwindles, art serves as a visual archive that keeps the stories and experiences alive. These paintings ensure that the lessons of history are not forgotten and that the next generation continues to engage with the past to shape a better future.

  1. Economic Exploitation

Forts played a central role in the economic exploitation of African resources during the colonial period. These structures were hubs for the extraction and trade of valuable goods, including minerals, spices, and agricultural products. African paintings that incorporate forts symbolize the economic injustices and exploitation that occurred, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging this history to rectify ongoing economic disparities.

  1. Cultural Significance

In some African societies, forts have gained cultural significance beyond their colonial history. They have become symbols of the resilience and adaptability of these communities, as they transformed spaces associated with oppression into places of cultural importance. For example, some forts have been repurposed as museums, cultural centers, or memorials, serving as symbols of cultural revitalization and preservation.

  1. Commemoration of Heroes

Many African paintings featuring forts pay tribute to the heroes and leaders who fought against colonial oppression. These artworks often depict figures who played pivotal roles in resisting colonial rule, either through armed resistance or advocacy for independence. By showcasing these historical figures alongside forts, artists celebrate their bravery and contributions to the liberation of their people.

  1. Environmental Impact

The presence of forts in African paintings can also draw attention to the environmental impact of colonization. Colonial activities, such as mining and deforestation, had lasting ecological consequences in Africa. Some artists use forts as symbols to raise awareness about environmental degradation and the need for sustainable practices to restore the land.

  1. Architectural Aesthetics

From an artistic perspective, forts can be visually striking and intricate structures that add depth and complexity to paintings. Artists may choose to include forts for their architectural beauty and as a way to challenge the viewer's perception of colonial structures. This aesthetic choice allows for a unique blending of artistic expression and historical commentary.

  1. Promoting Dialogue

African paintings featuring forts often serve as conversation starters. They invite viewers to engage with the complex histories and legacies of colonialism. By sparking dialogue and critical thinking, these artworks contribute to a broader societal discussion about colonialism's impact on Africa and the ongoing efforts to address its repercussions.

  1. Global Perspective

African artists sometimes incorporate forts into their work to offer a global perspective on the consequences of colonization. These paintings can resonate with audiences worldwide, fostering a better understanding of Africa's history and the broader implications of colonialism on a global scale.


The inclusion of forts in African paintings is not merely an artistic choice; it is a powerful means of conveying history, resistance, resilience, cultural fusion, and contemporary commentary. These symbols remind us of the complex and multifaceted nature of African art, which continues to evolve while staying rooted in tradition. By depicting forts, African artists navigate the intersection of past and present, forging a path toward understanding, healing, and a brighter future.

The depiction of forts in African paintings is a multifaceted expression that encompasses historical memory, resistance, cultural fusion, economic exploitation, and much more. These symbols serve as a testament to the depth and richness of African art, reflecting the continent's complex history and the ongoing journey toward social, cultural, and economic transformation.

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