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African MASKS

For middle school art students
by

Lindsey Foushee

on 18 October 2014

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Transcript of African MASKS

African MASKS
One of the most recognizable characteristics of African culture is the use of masks in rituals and ceremonies. Many tribes around northern and western Africa create masks. The earliest masks were used in Africa before Paleolithic era.
Masks were usually made from wood, pottery, textiles, copper, or bronze.
This mask is wood with copper plates, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The masks represent spirits of animals or ancestors, mythological heroes, moral values or are a form of honoring a person in a symbolic way.
Masks like this one from Cote d'Ivoire are called kulie', or "face of the dead." They are used during public dances during agricultural ceremonies and funerary processions.
Most masks are made in the region south of the Sahara desert ("sub-Saharan") and in Western Africa.
The masks are never very realistic. They are abstracted or stylized and are meant to embody the idea of the subject instead of looking like the subject.
These men of the Kurumba tribe of Burkina Faso wear an example of an antelope mask, which in this case, fits like a headdress. The antelope is a common masks that is worn to bring a fruitful harvest.
In Sierra Leone, masks often have a small mouth and eyes to represent humility and a large round forehead to represent wisdom.
Though masks are frequently animals, they may resemble human faces, as well. They tend to represent ancestors, heroes, or are symbolic of moral values.
This mask uses elements from the crocodile, warthog, and antelope to create a fearsome effect. The open crocodile mouth includes sharp teeth, warthog tusks jut from the top lip, and long antelope horns protrude from the back of the head. When worn, the dancer would have looked through the mouth.
Some masks are a composite, or a blend, of different creatures. Each particular feature represents an aspect of that animal to create an overall effect. This helmet mask from Côte d'Ivoire is meant to instill fear during the dance. The purpose was to punish law-breakers and frighten away evil spirits. Women and children were urged not to watch these ferocious performances.
The dancer wearing the mask is traditionally believed to "become" the mask they are wearing by going into a trance. If it is an animal mask, the mask represents the spirit of the animal and so the one who wears it becomes that animal himself, which allows for communication with that animal. If it's an ancestor mask, the spirit of the ancestor takes the body of the wearer and can impart wisdom to the tribe's wise man, who translates the messages.
Rituals and ceremonies are always accompanied with song, dance and music, played with traditional African musical instruments. The dancer may also wear the mask with a full-body costume.
This is a Dogon tribe ceremony in Mali.
seashells
bones
teeth
animal hair
feathers
egg shells
seeds
straw
horns
Materials used to decorate masks depended on what was available in the area. Some materials include:
Your Assignment...
Research African masks online.
Find one that you think is interesting and recreate it using recycled materials.
Go to my website for your guidelines: MsFousheesArtRoom.weebly.com
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