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How Were African Mask Important to the African Community?

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Nadia Kendall

on 27 November 2012

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Transcript of How Were African Mask Important to the African Community?

CULTURE? INTRODUCTION African Tribal Art has a significant and esoteric history. A very important part of that history includes the traditional African masks. The African masks were used for African ceremonies, rituals, initiations, celebrations and secret communities. The use of African masks typically includes song, prayer, and dance. They can be viewed as an obvious work of sculpture art and a performance art form. How Were They Made?

The actual carving of the African masks and figures is a very deliberated act....... After this period is over, the artist will take the tree home and begin to carve it into a mask or a figure. They are often decorated with paints, cowrie shells, colored glass, nails, plant fibers, horns and metal pieces. The artist begins by ceremonially purifying himself, then offering a prayer to the ancestors and asking for proper guidance from the divine forces. The spirit of the tree used to create it is sacrificed, cut down and left for a couple days, so that the spirit of the tree can leave to find a new home. If the tree cracks during this time, it can not be used The Mask
Wearer Only selected people have the privilege to wear African masks. In many cases, only men can wear masks, and most specifically elders or men of high social status.
In most traditional African cultures, the person who wears a ritual mask conceptually loses his or her human identity and turns into the spirit represented by the mask itself. This spirit is believed to possess the dancer as they wear the mask. This dancer is chosen either because they have been trained specifically for this purpose or because they have demonstrated abilities to extraordinarily communicate with the deceased ancestors. What Happens during Ceremonies? The African love of music, song and dance always plays a central theme in the ceremonies and rituals. These rituals and ceremonies may represent ancestors, the dead, the spirit of animals and other mythical beings.
Masking ceremonies involves the chosen dancer speaking and hearing from the ancestors. This happens as the dancer goes into a trance like state. The purpose is often to receive the guidance and wisdom from the ancestors, or to tell a story or play out a message of the peoples history. The messages received, comes out of the dancer as grunts and moans. The translation is provided by a wise man, who accompanies the dancer and translates the grunts and utterances. Types of Masks This type of African mask is a Baule mask which is also known as a Goli mask. It is used in tribal dances during harvest festivals, in processions to honor distinguished visitors and at the funerals of important figures. Baule Mask This type of mask is a Kwele mask. Kwele masks represent the antelope whose flesh was eaten at the end of the 'beete' ritual, a ritual that involves purification by the spirits who are represented in the form of 'ekuk' masks. Kwele Mask Senufo masks are used in the rites of the Poro society, a male organization that educates young men in the traditions and responsibilities necessary for their coming of age. The Senufo worship their ancestors, particularly Kolotyolo - the ‘Ancient Mother’ who is holds so much power that she has to be carefully approached through intervention by lesser gods. Senufo Masks Conclusion In conclusion, African Masks played an important role in many countries among Africa. If there wasn't African Masks people couldn't communicate with the deceased. The African culture took their Masks very seriously which proves that these wooden sculptures weren't just minor traditions.
As time has passed, modernization, colonization, heavy migration into the cities and out of the countryside and small villages, have made these rituals and ceremonies rarer occurrences. However, african masks still live on through use, new artists, museums and art collectors. They remain symbols of a time past, a rich history, and the religious and the cultural holdings of a people.
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