Masks are a feature of the African culture, having been used since the Palaeolithic era. The artistic masks were made from a variety of materials and are used in ceremonies and rituals. The African masks are symbolic, and the maker is high-ranked in the community. This paper discusses the features and relevance African masks.
The African masks were made from a variety of materials. The artists used copper, bronze, wood, pottery and textiles to make the masks (Finley, 1999). The mask-makers also used wood, hair, bones and teeth to add details on the masks. Makers of the masks were very respected in the community, and were ranked high, and the people believed that the mask-makers were connected to some spirits. In most circumstances, the masks were shaped like an animal-muzzle, or the human face.
The African masks were symbolic. They were used to represent the spirits of ancestors or animals, moral values or mythological heroes. The African art of mask-making, mostly featured animals, and a representation of abstract subjects, hence stylization. For example, the mask of the antelope was worn to represent agriculture (Finley, 1999). Women wore horns to symbolize the growth of millet. They also used ear-masks to sing during a harvest season.
The African masks represented different ideas. Some animals represented virtues, while the other represented evil (Finley, 1999). Crocodile pangs would be used to symbolize power. Masks of human shapes were mostly used to represent human values. A large chin in a mask was used to represent strength and power. The female-face mask was frequently used to represent the beauty of African women.
In sum, African masks have been a feature of African art for a long time. The masks are used to symbolize abstract subjects. The masks represented both evil and good, in society. They were mostly used in rituals and ceremonies.
- Finley, C. (1999). The Art of African Masks: Exploring Cultural Traditions Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications.