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Philosophers of art in the West might agree that works of art are simply artifacts made with the intention of possessing aesthetic value, and in that sense art, which would include craftwork as well as works of fine art, would indeed be found in all parts of Africa (as indeed it is throughout human culture).But even in this case, African art must be understood through the investigation and understanding of local aesthetic values rather than through the imposition of categories of external origin.The first is geography, in that, all other things being equal, people in different places tend to make or do things in different ways.

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Painting in Africa was long presumed not to exist to any significant extent, largely because it was to be found on the skins of human bodies, on the walls of houses, and on rock faces—none of which were collectible.

Clearly, the aesthetic field in Africa is not so limited.

The Western separation of fine art from the lowlier craft (i.e., useful skill) came out of a sequence of social, economic, and intellectual changes in Europe that did not occur in Africa before the colonial period at the very earliest.

This separation, therefore, cannot be applied without qualification to African traditions of precolonial origin.

Sometimes African art plays a part in this, as when a religious cult or a chief or a guild employs distinctive artifacts as a mark of uniqueness.

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