The Symbolism of Animals in Africa

The Symbolism of Animals in Africa

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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7 thoughts on “The Symbolism of Animals in Africa

  • Pingback: Back In Stock: Elephant Engraved Silver Cuff | Africa Imports African Business Blog

  • October 24, 2015 at 12:26 pm
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    Extremely useful to me, as I was looking for a caption to an elephant origami that I plan to send to all my friends on New Year… I’ll see it to you as well if you wish!

    Reply
    • January 4, 2016 at 12:41 pm
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      We’re so glad this was helpful to you! Sounds like a very fun idea :)

      Reply
  • January 22, 2017 at 11:04 pm
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    In the part of leopards what do you mean it signifies The Great Watcher?

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    • May 13, 2017 at 1:17 pm
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      Great watcher here means that the Leopard is alert and intensely aware of what is happening around him.

      Reply
    • June 1, 2017 at 1:12 pm
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      Tigers aren’t native to Africa. They live in south Asia which is why they aren’t used in African symbolism.

      Reply

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