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[5], One of the well-known representations of female beauty is the Idia mask of Benin. In Europe, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro in Paris and the British Museum all have excellent collections. (7), Muslim communities such as the Koro of Nigeria also use masks as part of rituals. Worn with full costume in a night masquerade to settle disputes and quell misbehavior, this calm visage was terrifying to wrong-doers, BaKongo masks from the Kongo Central region, Zoomorphic mask as depicted on a Makurian mural from Old Dongola (12th/13th century), Wabele mask, Senufo people, Brooklyn Museum, Doei (or Kwere), female ancestor mask, Tanzania, A copper and wood mask from Central Africa, Helmet Mask for Sande Society Brooklyn Museum, Commercial masks for sale a in a shop in the Mwenge Makonde market, Dar es Salaam, As African masks are largely appreciated by Europeans, they are widely commercialized and sold in most tourist-oriented markets and shops in Africa (as well as "ethnic" shops in the Western World). As the tempo accelerates, the ground pulsates, colors swirl, the dust kicks up, and whatever divide exists between the corporeal and the incorporeal, the spiritual and the mundane, the temporal and the intemporal dissolves. [6] Some masks (for example those of the Sande society of Liberia and the Mende people of Sierra Leone, that are made from hollow tree stumps) are worn like helmets covering both the head and face. As a consequence, the traditional art of mask-making has gradually ceased to be a privileged, status-related practice, and mass production of masks has become widespread. African masks are extremely important cultural elements for the diverse peoples of Africa, especially for sub-Saharan countries in the southern Sahara desert. Rather, they are part of a ceremonial costume. Unique African Tribal Tattoo Design: The tattoo design looks very attractive and depicting the tribal era where in hardworking women’s are carrying eatable on their head. For instance, masks usually have a spiritual and religious meaning and they are used in ritual dances and social and religious events, and a special status is attributed to the artists that create masks to those that wear them in ceremonies. Used with my mixed Year 3 & 4 class when desigining their own African masks during our Ghana topic. Artists use various materials to make African masks. In fact, some of the most impressive ones take up space in museums and art galleries all over the world. To honor his dead mother, the king wore the mask on his hip during special ceremonies. Subscribe to get special offers and the latest offers from the Afrikanza team. One of the most enduring and fascinating aspects of African culture is masks. The mask is an instrument; without it, one cannot understand his African culture. The koro mask lacks any human or animal representations, in keeping with Islamic scripture. (11). The masks are carved out of wood and are often dyed to give a … Covers the full face and is often either heavily gilded or stark white.Historically: Standardized Venetian disguise required at political decision-making events, thereby ensuring anonymity.For: Men who want to get lost in a crowd, and break a few rules.Wear it to: That party where you want to make an impression when you bump into that special someone. African masks are one of the oldest known forms of art. Below is a sampling of ten types of masks, their uses and the cultures with which they are associated. The oldest surviving African masks come from the Egyptian archaeological site of Hierakonpolis. While the face represents ideal female beauty, the beard indicates that women are equal to men in their knowledge. The earliest evidence of them is in the form of rock art from 11,000 years ago but they may be even older than that. The traditional religion of the Dogon people of Mali, for example, comprises three main cults (the Awa or cult of the dead, the Bini or cult of the communication with the spirits, and the Lebe or cult of nature); each of these has its pantheon of spirits, corresponding to 78 different types of masks overall. These masks are kept in special huts and are brought out and danced primarily during the funerals of important individuals of the society. Masks representing dead ancestors play an important role in African funerals. Geometric and symmetrical patterns often play a prominent role in the design of African masks. They also served the purpose of reminding people of their rules of society as well as acting as a spiritual arbiter in cases involving village disputes. African mask makers work with many materials including brass, copper, bronze, brass, terracotta and glazed pottery, raffia and fabrics. [9] Another well-known example is that of kifwebe masks of the Songye people (Congo basin), that mix the stripes of a zebra (or okapi), the teeth of a crocodile, the eyes of a chameleon, the mouth of an aardvark, the crest of a rooster, the feathers of an owl and more. African Mask History And Meaning. They can be oval, circular, rectangular, elongated, heart-shaped, animal or human, or any combination of these. The function of ancient Egyptian masks, however, is better known. All community members were required to attend Igbo masquerades in Nigeria, where the masked individuals would approach people and tell them the bad behavior they engaged in. (9), During three day long funerals of the Senufo tribe in Côte d’Ivoire, members of the secret male Poro society wear these masks while beating on drums next to the funerary bed. Some of these masks are stolen and Africans are increasingly engaging in campaigns to get them back. By the early 20th century, the same masks came to be regarded as art objects and were collected by and displayed in art museums. Others represent male or female figures. For the mask to be endowed with its intended powers, it needed to be consecrated by a priest, medicine man or magician. Some are very small, some are life-size, and others are gigantic. Female masks of the Punu people of Gabon, for example, have long curved eyelashes, almond-shaped eyes, thin chin, and traditional ornaments on their cheeks, as all these are considered good-looking traits. (1). Traditional African masks play an important role in certain traditional African rituals and ceremonies. It’s just that they aren’t preserved in the archaeological record. Traditional masks have been playing an important role in the Japanese society. Among the museums where you can see masks in Africa is the National Museum of Burkina Faso or the newly inaugurated National Museum in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite their timeless existence, many people are not well-versed with the craft items. The mask wearer thus becomes a sort of medium that allows for a dialogue between the community and the spirits (usually those of the dead or nature-related spirits). As they are worn across many different cultures, the colors of African masks have multiple meanings. Some examples of known African masks and their meanings: Funeral Masks: Used by the Bete and Yoruba people, these masks have the main purpose of keeping sorcerers (feared by the Bete) at bay. to ask wild beasts to stay away from the village); in many cases, nevertheless, an animal is also (sometimes mainly) a symbol of specific virtues. By copying these carefully, the artists believe that they will attract other spirits to dwell in them. The meaning of African Masks always have a spiritual meaning and connection. It is often the case that the artistic quality and complexity of a mask reflects the relative importance of the portrayed spirit in the systems of beliefs of a particular people; for example, simpler masks such as the kple kple of the Baoulé people of Côte d'Ivoire (essentially a circle with minimal eyes, mouth and horns) are associated with minor spirits.[3]. The general structure of a mask varies depending on the way it is intended to be worn. The masks have a characteristic concave face which ends with a pointed chin, a high domed forehead, and big pouty lips. Only through these rituals, which often involved adding magical substances to the mask, would the spirits who were intended to dwell in the mask take up their abode there. African Masks Examined: History, Type, Role, Meaning & Examples, African masks have quite a long tradition and many different meanings are associated with them. The number of types of African masks probably reaches into the hundreds, primarily among the cultures of West and Central Africa. The most common animal used for masks are buffalo, hyena, crocodile, and antelo  pe. Mask designers usually follow traditional designs, especially ones that pleased spirits in the past. 19th–20th century, wood, pigment, and fiber, 182.9 x 28.2 x 26 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), The Nwatantay mask of the Bwa people of Burkina Faso represents natural spirits that cannot be seen by humans. Sometimes the patterns represent scarification of the face that is common in some African cultures. There are many types, meanings, uses and materials that make up these pieces, and the same people can have several different masks. A fact sheet and matching powerpoint showing the different types of African masks and what their purposes and meanings are. A well-known example is the mwana pwo (literally, "young woman") of the Chokwe people (Angola), that mixes elements referring to feminine beauty (well-proportioned oval face, small nose and chin) and other referring to death (sunken eye sockets, cracked skin, and tears); it represents a female ancestor who died young, venerated in rites such as circumcision rites and ceremonies associated to the renewal of life. [6], Another common subject of African masks is a woman's face, usually based on a specific culture's ideal of feminine beauty. In most cultures, the mask maker was a respected member of society. In most traditional African cultures, the person who wears a ritual mask conceptually loses his or her human life and turns into the spirit represented by the mask itself. Sometimes an offering or sacrifice is even made to the tree’s soul before it is chopped down. These show masks that look a lot like contemporary West African masks and date to about 11,000 years ago. Including Day of the Dead, African masks, Masquerade masks, Samurai warrior masks... etc. There are three known types of masks depicting animal-headed gods from ancient Egypt. They are made of different materials which include leather, fabric and various types of wood. Male masks are distinguished by a striated pattern of three colors while the female is predominantly white with the features accented in black and some in red. Made from two sheets of gold: the face and neck are made from 18.4-carat gold and the rest is made from 22.5-carat gold. When the mask wearer puts on the mask, his identity is taken over by the spirit represented by the mask. [12], A special class of ancestor masks are those related to notable, historical or legendary people. However, their role in African society is more functional than artistic. [8], A common variation on the animal-mask theme is the composition of several distinct animal traits in a single mask, sometimes along with human traits. The most commonly used material for masks is wood, although a wide variety of other elements can be used, including light stone such as steatite, metals such as copper or bronze, different types of fabric, pottery, and more. These masks served as a way for people to communicate with the spirit world. For African tribes, the power of the African mask lies in its creation. Facial marks determine what rights the person has to contribute to the well-being of … Among these are Man Ray’s surrealist photo Noire et Blanche, one of many photographs he produced that featured West African artworks that he collected. Mask (Kanaga), Mali, Dogon peoples, 20th century, wood, fiber, hide, pigment, 53.6 x 97.2 x 15.9 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), The Kanaga mask is a funerary mask worn by the Dogon people of Mali intended to ensure the safe passage of the deceased to the otherworld where his ancestors are. These ceramic funerary masks had holes behind the ears to fit them over the face of the deceased person. The Chinese have even gotten in on the business and some masks come with a “Made in China” sticker! This African mask from the Tikar people of Cameroon is hand carved of wood, and features finely detailed brass embellishment to the eyes and forehead. African mask makers were often farmers or blacksmiths by trade or people who learned as apprentices from other artists, who they paid to teach them for two or three years. To use the mask, the Zulu whisper their deepest secrets to the mask -- those secrets considered too precious or dangerous to tell any other member of the tribe. The mask maker is enjoined to work within long-established bounds, using particular forms, traditional imagery, and formal conventions. A frican masks should be seen as part of a ceremonial costume. Carving a mask with an adze. The Dundo Museum in Angola displays masks that were previously looted but returned. While they are found in many of the world's museums and art collections, these displays do not do justice to the important cultural role they play in performative rituals across much of the continent. 7. These rituals can last for hours and are accompanied by dancing and singing. In Sierra Leone and elsewhere, small eyes and mouth represent humility, and a wide, protruding forehead represents wisdom. However, several common meanings can be found for three colors: red, white and black. Certain patterns distinguish the two genders, with prominent bouffant hairstyles indicating women. You can get in touch with us on African Masks. A priest wore a mask of the jackal-god Anubis mask during funerary rituals, which are depicted in Egyptian art. The designs of the masks teach important moral and social lessons during dances performed for funerals, agricultural rituals, and initiations. O ur African Mask Lessons will introduce you to a range of African masks and the people who use them: Two such masks also survive. The most common type applies to the wearer's face, like most Western (e.g., carnival) masks. A few West African peoples believe, in fact, that the creators of masks are potentially capable of using the object’s supernatural powers to cause harm to others. They are a widely sought after part of the different African cultures by art collectors. African Tribal Masks. For example, the Poro secret societies of the Senufo people of the Ivory Coast have masks that celebrate the exceptional power of the society by merging three different "danger" symbols: antelope horns, crocodile teeth, and warthog fangs. A wide array of ornamental items can be applied to the mask surface; examples include animal hair, horns, or teeth, sea shells, seeds, straw, egg shell, and feathers. Some masks are painted (for example using ochre or other natural colorants). He has successfully returned a number of masks this way. Masks from the Senufo people of Ivory Coast, for example, have their eyes half closed, symbolizing a peaceful attitude, self-control, and patience. The demand for masks by tourists visiting Africa is so great that even in East Africa where they are less common, masks based on West African designs are sold in markets. In Africa masks can be traced back to well past Paleolithic times. In most cases, mask-making is an art that is passed on from father to son, along with the knowledge of the symbolic meanings conveyed by these masks. Masked dances are a part of most traditional African ceremonies related to weddings, funerals, initiation rites, and so on. Masks have a special symbolism and ritual meanings in African tribes and societies in general. Others are worn like hats on the top of the wearer's head; examples include those of the Ekhoi people of Nigeria and Bwa people of Burkina Faso, as well as the famous chiwara masks of the Bambara people. The mask maker carves the mask using a traditional tool called an adze. Animal hair or straw are often used for a mask's hair or beard. For example, both the Bwa and the Buna people of Burkina Faso have hawk masks, with the shape of the beak identifying a mask as either Bwa or Buna. They come to life, possessed by their spirit in the performance of the dance, and are enhanced by the music, color and atmosphere of the occasion. Represented are fanciful birds, fishes, and animals with distorted or exaggerated features. Its bearer surrenders to its power. Making African masks needs great knowledge and great skills. Masks of the lion-headed god Bes also were used in rituals, including perhaps puberty rituals, as depicted in one tomb where a masked individual accompanied dancing boys. (12), Highly stylized in design, African masks are not intended as portraits of real people. However, mask dances are sometimes a focus of special tours to Africa, and Dogon mask dances are often performed specially for tourists. Wherever they appear they are associated with practically all of the elements fundamental to the life forces distinctive of an area. You can decorate it with paint, feathers, cotton, yarn, buttons, and tinfoil. We also have a lesson on how to design your own African mask. African masks are usually shaped after a human face or some animal's muzzle, albeit rendered in a sometimes highly abstract form. The Yoruba people believe that the masks … [4] Influences of this heritage can also be found in other traditions such as South- and Central American masked Carnival parades. African Masks: Structure, Expression, Style PAUL S. WINGERT Masks are among the most ubiqui-tous art forms in Africa south of the Sahara. The fine lines and beautiful colour combination adds more beauty to the design and lends a unique look to the wearer. (3), Mask (Nwantantay), Burkina Faso, Black Volta River region, Bwa peoples. The history of African mask collecting has gone through several stages since Europeans began to collect masks in the 19th century during their colonial forays into Africa. (6), The nkanda of the Democratic Republic of Congo wear these masks during puberty and circumcision rites. Some African cultures have mask-like ornaments that are worn on the chest rather than the head of face; this includes those used by the Makonde people of East Africa in ndimu ceremonies. Merging distinct animal traits together is sometimes a means to represent unusual, exceptional virtue or high status. (13), President Emmanuel Macron of France commissioned a report on the restitution of sub-Saharan African art to Africa and the authors recommended that art in French museums either be temporarily or permanently returned to the continent from whence it came. [5], Animals are common subjects in African masks. If they refuse, he sends his lawyers after them. The shapes, colors, and sizes of African masks have special meanings for different cultures. This mask represents him but does not depict him, because he cannot be seen, and is used in performances intended to maintain the balance of nature in the agricultural society. You have to be careful when buying an African mask as forgeries are common. 8. As they are worn across many different cultures, the colors of African masks have multiple meanings. The masks began being featured prominently in their artworks or inspiring them. roughly between the Sahara and the Kalahari Desert. For many centuries African Tribal masks, played a major role in rituals, celebrations, ceremonial and tribal initiations. May be a useful starting point for art, photography, history etc. You might want to print out some of these line drawings of masks and then paste them on a piece of cardboard and cut out holes for the eyes, mouth, and nose. Unfortunately, some of the greatest collections of African masks are outside the continent. African Mask and Their Meanings, 74 most recent reports as well as publications about african mask and their meanings. (5), Private collection of author (Okuyi mask from Gabon) - Sydney, Australia (, The okuyi mask is worn among the Bantu people of Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea during rites of passage such as infants reaching 4 months of age, adolescence, and funerals. This and his other tools each had a spirit that dwelled in it and a sacrifice had to be made to the tools before commencement of the work. The work of the African tribal artists who made the African masks was believed to be deeply spiritual and the artists were highly respected in their societies. The record paid for an African mask was $7.5 million at an auction in 2006. They are used in religious and social events to represent the spirits of ancestors or to control the good and evil forces in the community. The people who CAN make them usually have a special record held of something special that they did. [1] This transformation of the mask wearer into a spirit usually relies on other practices, such as specific types of music and dance, or ritual costumes that contribute to the shedding of the mask-wearer's human identity. Here is a video example of just one way to make your own African mask! Enlarged facial features; Symmetrical design; Checkboard patterns; They are twisted, parallel, curved. Yoruba tribal marks In Yoruba communities, children are born into particular clans. Shapes and Colors of African masks are tribe specific, thus they are used as parameters to locate the mask’s origin. Animal masks might actually represent the spirit of animals, so that the mask-wearer becomes a medium to speak to animals themselves (e.g. Secret societies wear the mask during private meetings where they learn about the society’s history, rituals and beliefs. While the specific implications associated with ritual masks widely vary in different cultures, some traits are common to most African cultures. Some masks represent the spirits of deceased ancestors. Some of the best museums outside Africa to view African masks include the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, and the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (they also have a collection from the now-defunct, Museum of Primitive Art in New York). For example, Congolese businessman Sindika Dokolo has been tracking stolen masks since 2014. [15], Ritual and ceremonial mask of Sub-Saharan Africa, This idea has been literally portrayed in the well-known novel, Analogies between Nigerian ceremonies and the. Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture of the peoples of a part of Sub-Saharan Africa, e.g. If you want to buy a historical & authentic African mask, be prepared to shell out a good sum of money. (10), The Bobo people of Burkina Faso believe the son, Dwo, of the creator god, was left on earth to mediate between man and God. African masks are arguably the most recognized artifacts or craft items from the African continent. Read on and you will learn everything you need to know about the African mask tradition. The pigments and dyes used to color the wood are natural materials such as clay, seeds, tree bark and leaves.

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