A F R I C A N         F R A C T A L S


Fractals  are characterized by  the  repetition of similar patterns at ever-diminishing scales. Fractal geometry has emerged as one of the most exciting frontiers on the border between mathematics and information  technology and can be seen in many of the swirling patterns produced by computer graphics. It has become a new tool for modeling in biology, geology, and other natural sciences. Anthropologists have observed that the patterns produced in different cultures   can be characterized by specific design themes. In Europe and America, we often see cities laid out in a grid pattern of straight streets and right-angle corner.

         In contrast, traditional African settlements tend to use fractal structuresócircles of circles of circular dwellings, rectangular walls enclosing ever-smaller rectangles, and streets in which broad avenues branch down to tiny footpaths with striking geometric repetition. These indigenous fractals are    not limited to architecture; their recursive patterns echo throughout many disparate   African designs and knowledge systems. Ron Eglash, AFRICAN FRACTALS, Rutgers University Press, 1999.


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AFRICAN FRACTALS is an introduction to fractal geometry, its various expressions in African cultures, and an exploration of the implications of these designs for cultural theory, math education, and African development.  Drawing on interviews with African designers, artists, and scientists, Ron Eglash   investigates fractals in African architecture, traditional hairstyling, textiles, sculpture, painting, carving, metalwork, religion, games, practical craft, quantitative techniques, and symbolic systems. He also examines the political and social implications of the existence of African fractal geometry. His book makes a unique contribution to the study of mathematics, African culture, anthropology, and computer simulations.

Ron Eglash is a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Studies at Ohio State University.






Updated  15 January 2000