The predominant art forms are masks and figures, which were generally used in religious ceremonies. The decorative arts, especially in textiles and in the ornamentation of everyday tools, were a vital art in nearly all African cultures. The lack of archaeological excavations restricts knowledge of the antiquity of African art. As the value of these works was inseparable from their ritual use, no effort was made to preserve them as aesthetic accomplishments. Wood was one of the most frequently used materials—often embellished by clay, shells, beads, ivory, metal, feathers, and shredded raffia. The discussion in this article is limited to the works of the peoples of W and central Africa—the regions richest (because of the people's sedentary lifestyles) in indigenous art.
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