In Africa, the use of animals in artwork isn’t merely for show. Each animal has a specific meaning to the artist, and certain animals signify certain character qualities. This is why you will see so many carvings of animals, or even animals embroidered onto African clothing.
What Do Animals Symbolize in African Art?
The Lion – The lion is an emblem for royalty, strength, conquest, valor, pride, wisdom, authority, courage and protection. The lioness represents the moon, femininity and fierce motherhood.
The Leopard – The leopard signifies ferocity, aggression, the Great Watcher, and courage.
The Zebra – The zebra symbolizes freedom and individuality.
The Elephant – The elephant signifies strength, royalty, dignity, patience, wisdom, longevity, and happiness. A large symbol of good luck, especially when its truck is pointed up. The elephant represents status and power since royalty used to ride on elephants. For Christians in Africa, the elephant is a symbol of clarity and temperance an signifies Christ trampling a serpent.
The Camel – Although many cultures see the camel as a symbol of arrogance, laziness and bad temper, African’s have a much different view. Countries that use camels see it in a more positive light. In Africa, the camel is a symbol of sobriety, and for Christians it is a symbol of temperance because it drops to its knees to receive a burden, as if before God in humility and obedience.
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