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Masks in African Theatre

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melina dulluku

on 14 March 2011

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Transcript of Masks in African Theatre

African Masks crucial role in traditional African culture
religious ceremonies
social rituals
death ceremonies
celebrations Role of Masks Process process is passed down through generations
metal, leather, fabric and various types of wood Importance many reasons for wearing a mask
worn vertically over one's face
human characteristics are apperent (female/male)
symbolizes living & the dead
combination of human and animal characteristics Rituals
respect & fear of the dead hold ceremonies in their honor - masks important part of ritual
spiritual being
speak with spirits
supernatural spirits
one can become a spirit through the mask with supernatural powers
African Witch-Doctor mask - has the power to cure sickness and disease caused by offended spirits Connection to Animal Kingdom believe in productive animal spirits (bird/fish spirits)
may be inspired by a spirit seen in a dream
connect the power of the animal concerned with the human world
connects man with beast 56 countries in Africa traditions vary among these countries
the following are some general uses Witch doctor mask
from Cameroon
(crying blood) 1975 -1980 Ivory Coast National Language: French
more than 60 ethnic groups
Baoule in the centre (immigrated from Ghana)
Agri in the East
Senufo in the North (migrated from the North during 15th-16th century)
62% follow traditional beliefs
contact between the living & dead
the dead are transformed into spirits and remain in contact
through rituals, magic and masks Masks in Ivory Coast people of Ivory Coast produce one of the widest variety of masks (especially the SENUFO tribe)
The Senufo are known for agriculture & farming
the SENUFO people very strongly follow traditional beliefs
but many Young Men are involved in making masks & wood carvings produced in PORO (school located in the forest for young men)
The Senufo believe that everything is a result of ancestor spirits
masks represent the souls of the deceased people/ lesser dieties/ animal caricatures
Ownership of masks is RESTRICTED to certain powerful individuals & families
only specifically trained/ designated people are permitted to wear the masks
this is seriously dangerous, because masks possess souls
if in contact with a persons face(person who is wearing it) that person can be transformed into the entity of what the mask represents
masks in Ivory Coast also represent ideal beliefs and or morals
for ex: to show tranquility the Senufo tribe make masks with eyes half shut and lines on the side of the mouth
the GREBO tribe of Ivory coast use WAR MASKS
a mask with small/round eyes to represent alertness & anger
sharp/long nose represents unwillingness to retreat Ivory Coast Today
masks and mask making still exist today
Fetes du Masques (Festival of Masks)
takes place in November/ region of Man
carnival celebrations & dancing
people also make and wear wooden masks pay homage to the forest spirits embodied in the elaborate masks Masks in Performance masks are used for their expressive power
the usage of masks exists as ritual and as theatrical
in theatre masks are used to represent comedy and or tragedy
mask is normally a part of a costume that embodies an important tradition based on a religion and/or social life
The dancing of masks is designed to encourage the entry of the supernatural into the mundane world
Masks maintain their power and mystery both for the wearer and the audience Performance Ritual masks are used for religious & magical/theatrical purposes
as a rite of passage
masks preside over important ceremonies
they tell a story about ancestors
send a social & or political message
offer a protective role to the society who uses masks The Dan tribe
(Ge: Performance) The Dan are extremmely Musical people
mask or masqurade performance
dance and embodiement of their social ideals & religious beliefs
Ge: is defined as a part of a RELIGIOUS system, a form of entertainment, poitical tool, instrument of justice, form of resistance
for the Dan tribe, Ge: performance becomes a way of establishing individual identity as well as community identity in a world that is continually becoming ethnically and religiously diverse on the south coast of the western bulge of Africa Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso Various Tribes and their use of Masks Dogon cliff-dwelling people who live in Southeastern Mali and Burkina Faso
unique in that they have kept and continued to develop their own culture even in the midst of Islamic invasions
because of their location on the cliffs they were able to resist any foreign influence History Tradition divided into family groups
1) The Awa society
responsible for spiritual functions of Dogon culture
death and mourning periods
they communicate with the ancestor spirits
2) The Lebe
responsible for the agricultural spirit Use of Mask well-known for their masks- called "inima"
used in various ceremonies and rituals
thought to contain the life force "nyama"
over 65 different kinds of masks used for ceremonies
funeral ceremonies and anniversaries commemorating the dead Style "primitive" look (disappeared from many African masks)
red, black, and white
varieties of browns (developed from the reddish sand like dirt which surrounds the country)
some adorned with little white shells and cover whole head
some at least 10 feet high- represents animals, spirits, women, or mythical heroes Example of a Ritual and its meaning dancers on 12 feet high stilts
reminder of the tingetange long-legged river birds found along the rivers
this was during the times that the Dogons were still living among the Mande tribes, before moving to their current territory, the massive Bandiagara Escarpment
their move was to protect and preserve their traditional customs (ancestor worship and cosmology among others) in the face of Muslim and Christian invasion Bobo have lived in western Burkina Faso and Mali for centuries
main goal of Bobo culture- restore balanced nature (believe man destroys it)
order is mainly restored through sacrifices and ceremonies 1) The primary god of the Bobo is Wuro
responsible for ordering the land
responsible for ordering all things in the world into pairs- must always remain balanced However, man, through everyday existence is usually responsible for upsetting this balance
2)Dwo -revealed during masking ceremonies
chooses to live in a mask until worn
when his spirit is caught up in the spirit of the wearer who is then able to communicate to others Dwo's will Religion and Tradition History used masks to:
bring bush spirits,
to chase evil from their community &
to purify the land for successful planting and harvest Use of Mask Typically made from:
have geometric designs Style Sun Mask , Bobo Tribe Burkina Faso The annual Festival on the Niger many talented West African artists join the yearly festival to show off their great talents and traditional heritage
mix of people and cultures
masks and puppets,music and dance
modern and traditional art exhibitions (photographs, paintings, woodwork, sculpture, and jewelry)
pottery and bogolan (mud cloth textiles) workshops,
an international forum on "Local Knowledge and Globalisation"
craft markets
pirogue races among teams of various villages along the Niger River
Some Tribes that participate: Bamana tribe
one of the largest ethnic groups in Mali
recreate impressive masquerades
usually displayed during ceremonies such as:
the arrival of the rains in June
the end of harvest in the fall
circumcisions, or weddings
Life-size puppets and large mythical animals, musicians, drummers, singers, masked dancers
bush animals such as antelopes, buffaloes, horses, or birds Bozo tribe
live in huts along the shores of the Niger—used
aquatic sogows:
various types of fish, a hippo, a crocodil
a luck-bringing mermaid who emerged from the Niger River
Based on a traditional story:
"during a severe drought, some Bozo fishermen captured a mermaid and held her hostage until she finally unleashed an enormous deluge that caused the floods they had hoped for."
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