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 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. The function of ancient Egyptian masks, however, is better known. African Mask and Their Meanings, 74 most recent reports as well as publications about african mask and their meanings. 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. As they are worn across many different cultures, the colors of African masks have multiple meanings. We also have a lesson on how to design your own African mask. Traditional masks have been playing an important role in the Japanese society. Unfortunately, some of the greatest collections of African masks are outside the continent. Making African masks needs great knowledge and great skills. The Chinese have even gotten in on the business and some masks come with a “Made in China” sticker! They will feature in many museums, art galleries and also craft for sale. While the face represents ideal female beauty, the beard indicates that women are equal to men in their knowledge. African masks are not simply beautiful artistic objects to be admired. In Africa masks can be traced back to well past Paleolithic times. May be a useful starting point for art, photography, history etc. You can get in touch with us on support@afrikanza.com. They are made of different materials which include leather, fabric and various types of wood. Antelopes have a fundamental role in many cultures of the Mali area (for example in Dogon and Bambara culture) as representatives of agriculture. [2], Since every mask has a specific spiritual meaning, most traditions comprise several different traditional masks. 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. History of African Masks. The mask maker is enjoined to work within long-established bounds, using particular forms, traditional imagery, and formal conventions. In both cases, the hawk's wings are decorated with geometric patterns that have moral meanings; saw-shaped lines represent the hard path followed by ancestors, while chequered patterns represent the interaction of opposites (male-female, night-day, and so on)[5], Traits representing moral values are found in many cultures. 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. Represented are fanciful birds, fishes, and animals with distorted or exaggerated features. Masks serve an important role in rituals or ceremonies with varied purposes like ensuring a good harvest, addressing tribal needs in time of peace or war, or conveying spiritual presences in initiation rituals or burial ceremonies. Others symbolize totem animals, creatures important to a certain family or group. For the mask to be endowed with its intended powers, it needed to be consecrated by a priest, medicine man or magician. By the early 20th century, the same masks came to be regarded as art objects and were collected by and displayed in art museums. As they are worn across many different cultures, the colors of African masks have multiple meanings. However, their role in African society is more functional than artistic. Masked dances are a part of most traditional African ceremonies related to weddings, funerals, initiation rites, and so on. The spirits that take up residence in the masks can be ancestors or natural entities. If one was to make a mask that was a animal or had animal features it would represent a spirit animal guiding the person wearing that mask. (22). 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). Priests wore masks of the falcon-headed god Horus during various religious rituals as well. (3), Mask (Nwantantay), Burkina Faso, Black Volta River region, Bwa peoples. Contemporary artists like Sefah Mohamed from Accra, and Abdul Aziz Mohamadu, sell their handmade masks at affordable prices online. Picasso was said to have been inspired by the Ngil mask from the Feng culture, hence the high price. African masks have quite a long tradition and many different meanings are associated with them. Below is a sampling of ten types of masks, their uses and the cultures with which they are associated. African masks can be considered as one of the greatest works of art in Africa. Another common subject of African masks is a woman's face, usually based on a specific culture's ideal of feminine beauty. Sometimes the patterns represent scarification of the face that is common in some African cultures. Their history dates back to many centuries ago, and they were used in religious rituals, festivals, and theaters. African Masks: Structure, Expression, Style PAUL S. WINGERT Masks are among the most ubiqui-tous art forms in Africa south of the Sahara. [10], As the veneration of defunct ancestors is a fundamental element of most African traditional cultures, it is not surprising that the dead is also a common subject for masks. Many agricultural societies and associations in Mali have a stylized representation of an antelope in their symbols. The most common type applies to the wearer's face, like most Western (e.g., carnival) masks. For African tribes, the power of the African mask lies in its creation. Red is often used to represent blood spilled during wars or childbirth. ... Apart from the face masks there are also types worn around the waist and down to the feet. The number of types of African masks probably reaches into the hundreds, primarily among the cultures of West and Central Africa. Sometimes a person will have a dream that inspires the design of a mask. For example, the Bwa and Nuna peoples in Burkina Faso make crocodile, eagle, and buffalo masks. African masks represent spirits of the dead, and spirits representing natural phenomena. Making an African mask is a great art project for kids that also helps them learn about cultures. 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. (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. They may only cover the face, or go over the entire head, cover part of the torso, or be a headdress that rests on top of the head. The masks began being featured prominently in their artworks or inspiring them. Stylish elements in a mask's looks are codified by the tradition and may either identify a specific community or convey specific meanings. Carving a mask with an adze. [6] A 12th/13th century mural from Old Dongola, the capital of the Nubian kingdom of Makuria, depicts dancing masks decorated with cowrie shells imitating some animal with long snouts and big ears. However, critics have complained that these works are examples of cultural appropriation and that the original craftsmen who produced the masks were never compensated for their contribution to these works. 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. (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.  Antelope = agriculture, enable better crops Elephant = wealth, success Lion = royalty Zebra = unity 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. It is believed to have been commissioned by King Esigie of Benin in memory of his mother. If they refuse, he sends his lawyers after them. While, in most cases, commercial masks are (more or less faithful) reproductions of traditional masks, this connection is weakening over time, as the logics of mass-production make it harder to identify the actual geographical and cultural origins of the masks found in such venues as curio shops and tourist markets. Some are influenced by other faiths, such as crosses representing Christianity and patterns inspired by Islamic art. To honor his dead mother, the king wore the mask on his hip during special ceremonies. The most famous of these is the boy king Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask, which was placed on his mummy and weighed a whopping 22.5 pounds (10 kilos). Certain patterns distinguish the two genders, with prominent bouffant hairstyles indicating women. African art and masks of the Tikar. Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture of the peoples of a part of Sub-Saharan Africa, e.g. Enlarged facial features; Symmetrical design; Checkboard patterns; They are twisted, parallel, curved. However, several common meanings can be found for three colors: red, white and black. 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. The wearer of the mask is often believed to be able to communicate to the being symbolized by it, or to be possessed by who or what the mask represents. You have to be careful when buying an African mask as forgeries are common. African masks are one of the oldest known forms of art. https://research.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=229649001&objectid=111363. 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. The record paid for an African mask was $7.5 million at an auction in 2006. (16). Trees are thought to possess a soul and therefore it is a good material to house the spirit of the mask. (15). Decorative elements they apply to masks include cowrie shells, beads, bone, animal skins, feathers, and vegetable fibers. The mask maker carves the mask using a traditional tool called an adze. 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. Here presents 9 types of Japanese traditional masks and their meanings. Masks representing dead ancestors play an important role in African funerals. An extreme example is given by nwantantay masks of the Bwa people (Burkina Faso) that represent the flying spirits of the forest; since these spirits are deemed to be invisible, the corresponding masks are shaped after abstract, purely geometrical forms. The Zulu people call some of their masks "secret masks" because legend says that they hold the secrets of the people near the mask. A fact sheet and matching powerpoint showing the different types of African masks and what their purposes and meanings are. Some of the most complex rituals that have been studied by scholars are found in Nigerian cultures such as those of the Yoruba and Edo peoples, rituals that bear some resemblance to the Western notion of theatre. [11] As veneration of the dead is most often associated with fertility and reproduction, many dead-ancestor masks also have sexual symbols; the ndeemba mask of the Yaka people (Angola and DR Congo), for example, is shaped after a skull complemented with a phallic-shaped nose. [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. A overview of different types of masks around the world and their meanings, with pictures. Wherever they appear they are associated with practically all of the elements fundamental to the life forces distinctive of an area. The Africans used to wear such masks in 3 different ways. There are many types, meanings, uses and materials that make up these pieces, and the same people can have several different masks. While most African tribal masks represent spirits and ancestors, the Dan masks are the spirits themselves. To the rhythm of drums, the mask emerges. Some masks are painted (for example using ochre or other natural colorants). These ceramic funerary masks had holes behind the ears to fit them over the face of the deceased person. African masks take on many forms. Despite their timeless existence, many people are not well-versed with the craft items. In fact, some of the most impressive ones take up space in museums and art galleries all over the world. A frican masks should be seen as part of a ceremonial costume. 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. One of the most enduring and fascinating aspects of African culture is masks. You can decorate it with paint, feathers, cotton, yarn, buttons, and tinfoil. The most important material used in mask making is wood. For example, Congolese businessman Sindika Dokolo has been tracking stolen masks since 2014. 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. https://www.kunst-aus-westafrika.com/scondjwin-dagnogo-images. The mask is an instrument; without it, one cannot understand his African culture. (18). They represent ancestors or important figures within their culture. When considering a mask in the Brooklyn Museum collection for an exhibition, the curator discovered that the mask, donated to the museum in 1998, had actually been stolen from a shrine in Nigeria in 1948. 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. Masks are one of the elements of great African art that have most evidently influenced European and Western art in general; in the 20th century, artistic movements such as cubism, fauvism and expressionism have often taken inspiration from the vast and diverse heritage of African masks. Animal masks, their features elongated and formalized, are common in western Africa. [5] The Grebo of the Ivory Coast carve masks with round eyes to represent alertness and anger, with the straight nose representing an unwillingness to retreat. Artists use various materials to make African masks. Not everyone can create and design an African Mask. Mask designers usually follow traditional designs, especially ones that pleased spirits in the past. The designs of the masks teach important moral and social lessons during dances performed for funerals, agricultural rituals, and initiations. L-R: Bauta Barocco Gold, Bauta Barocco Silver, Bauta CeraLooks like: It’s got a square-ish jaw, large chin, and no mouth. Animal masks might actually represent the spirit of animals, so that the mask-wearer becomes a medium to speak to animals themselves (e.g. They are a widely sought after part of the different African cultures by art collectors. Our African mask lessons teach you about different styles of masks, who makes them, how they are made, and where they come from. 7. Those that represent women generally take on an idealized view of female beauty. African masks also serve as educational tools, as part of rituals to teach social roles and physical control or to settle disputes. (11). The show focuses on the ways in which the qualities associated with red, white and black manifest themselves on various types of masks, one of the African … At first, Europeans treated masks as ethnographic objects, and displayed them in natural history museums alongside taxidermied animals, exotic plant remains and fossils. 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. In Gabon, large chins and mouths represent authority and strength. Some are very small, some are life-size, and others are gigantic. Bambara antelope masks (called chiwara) have long horns representing the thriving growth of millet, legs (representing roots), long ears (representing the songs sung by the working women at harvest time), and a saw-shaped line that represents the path followed by the Sun between solstices. Some of these masks are stolen and Africans are increasingly engaging in campaigns to get them back. Here is a video example of just one way to make your own African mask! She consulted the descendants of the family that had fashioned the mask on what to do. The African mask plays a constant sacred role in the life of the individual from early childhood until burial. 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. In most cultures, the mask maker was a respected member of society. Its bearer surrenders to its power. Face masks are the most common, but there are others like helmet masks, forehead masks, headdress masks, shoulder masks, and helmet crest masks. The Yoruba people believe that the masks … These show masks that look a lot like contemporary West African masks and date to about 11,000 years ago. 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. 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. Subscribe to get special offers and the latest offers from the Afrikanza team. Dried grass, woven palm fibres, coconuts, and shells, as well as wood are employed in the masks of New Guinea, New Ireland, and New Caledonia. roughly between the Sahara and the Kalahari Desert. After a visit to the ethnographic museum in Paris, Pablo Picasso also started collecting masks and went through a period when he painted paintings that were inspired by them. [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. Others represent male or female figures. The fine lines and beautiful colour combination adds more beauty to the design and lends a unique look to the wearer. Common animal subjects include the buffalo (usually representing strength, as in the Baoulé culture),[6] crocodile, hawk, hyena, warthog and antelope. 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. African Masks. 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. The general structure of a mask varies depending on the way it is intended to be worn. (17). The inherent lack of realism in African masks (and African art in general) is justified by the fact that most African cultures clearly distinguish the essence of a subject from its looks, the former, rather than the latter, being the actual subject of artistic representation. They are not meant to represent actual people or even animals. African Masks Examined: History, Type, Role, Meaning & Examples, https://www.kunst-aus-westafrika.com/scondjwin-dagnogo-images. (6), The nkanda of the Democratic Republic of Congo wear these masks during puberty and circumcision rites. Animal hair or straw are often used for a mask's hair or beard. [5], Animals are common subjects in African masks. The curator and the family conducted a divination ceremony with the gods as part of the decision making process. (8), Made by the Makonde people of Tanzania and Mozambique, these helmet masks featured prominently in rituals used during different life stages of children. 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. These include parallel lines, curves, spirals, and cruciform shapes all are found. African masks were mostly worn by men because the spirits in the masks were seen as threatening to women. African Tribal Masks. Three mask types exist: two male and one female. By copying these carefully, the artists believe that they will attract other spirits to dwell in them. Read on and you will learn everything you need to know about the African mask tradition. (14). The masks have a characteristic concave face which ends with a pointed chin, a high domed forehead, and big pouty lips. AFRICAN MASKS . (1). 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. Yoruba tribal marks In Yoruba communities, children are born into particular clans. There are three known types of masks depicting animal-headed gods from ancient Egypt. The masks hold a very special place in African cultures since from the ancient times. The most common animal used for masks are buffalo, hyena, crocodile, and antelo  pe. Facial marks determine what rights the person has to contribute to the well-being of … Tikar masks, with their ritual scarification's and formalized hair styles, are some of the most desirable in African art. 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. Masks referring to dead ancestors are most often shaped after a human skull. For example, the Okahandja market in Namibia mostly sells masks that are produced in Zimbabwe (as they are cheaper and more easily available than local masks), and, in turn, Zimbabwean mask-makers reproduce masks from virtually everywhere in Africa rather than from their own local heritage. African masks are usually shaped after a human face or some animal's muzzle, albeit rendered in a sometimes highly abstract form. 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. Read on mysteries along with handy advice on african mask and their meanings. These masks are mainly used for depicting the moral and psychological characteristics of an individual. It’s just that they aren’t preserved in the archaeological record. The people who CAN make them usually have a special record held of something special that they did. 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. (2), Alternate view, Kòmò Helmet Mask (Kòmòkun), 19th–mid-20th century, Guinea or Mali or Burkina Faso or Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, Komo or Koma Power Association, Wood, bird skull, porcupine quills, horns, cotton, sacrificial materials, 35.2 x 22.1 x 85.6 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), The threatening-looking Kòmò Helmet Mask is worn by the Bamana people of Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire. The oldest surviving African masks come from the Egyptian archaeological site of Hierakonpolis. (4), Helmet Mask, 19th-20th century, Sierra Leone, Moyamba region, Mende or Sherbro peoples, wood, metal, 47.9 x 22.2 x 23.5cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), The helmet mask of the Mende people of Sierra Leone is unusual in that it is worn by female initiates of a young women’s association. Masks play a central role in masquerades, during which the mask wearers danced accompanied by music. 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. 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. (5), Private collection of author (Okuyi mask from Gabon) - Sydney, Australia (wikipedia.org/wiki/okuyi/), 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. Wood is plentiful in Africa’s forests. 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. Tiriki circumcision ceremony in Kenya, where boys are secluded for four weeks. Masks have a special symbolism and ritual meanings in African tribes and societies in general. African masks come in all different colours, such as red, black, orange, and brown. The earliest evidence we have for masking in Africa comes from rock paintings in Algeria at Tassili n'Ajjer. 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