The standing male nude (kouros) first became important in the sculpture of ancient Greece, which associated the male body with athletic prowess and moral excellence. However, attitudes towards female nudity were different. The female body was associated with the divinity of procreation, and for almost five centuries, the Greeks preferred to see the standing female (kore) clothed. Then in the 4th century BCE sculptor Praxiteles carved a naked Aphrodite, known as the Cnidian Aphrodite, which established a new aesthetic tradition for the female form. Quite unlike the exaggerated forms of Middle Eastern and African fertility figurines, the Cnidian Aphrodite was created using idealized proportions based on mathematical ratios. A self-protective pose added to her modesty. This ideal version of the Greek female nude – designed to appeal to the mind as well as the senses – was later also adopted by Hellenistic Greco-Roman art but mostly discarded during the Pax Romana, from about 50 CE.
Though nudes is frown upon in the modern African society these body of work is an insight that we Africans should look beyond stereotypes.