The art of African masks started well before the Paleolithic times and are still used today. They were used for many masking ceremonies and rituals that have great cultural and traditional significance. The masks are worn during celebrations, initiations, crop harvesting, was preparation, peace and troubled times.
The masks, made from all sorts of material: leather, metal, fabric and woods, can be worn in different way symbolizing different things. Masks are worn to represent a spirit of the ancestors, mythological beings, good and/or evil, dead, animal spirits and other beings believed to have the power over humanity. During the ceremonies, with song, dance and traditional African music, the dancer will go into a trance when connected with an ancestor that has a message of wisdom.
Here is a picture of a face mask that was made by the Chokwe tribe. This is the most common type of mask. This particular mask was meant to cover the face and has holes along the side. Before it is put on, natural oils are rubbed all over his/her body to protect the one from evil spirits.
This Horizontal mask was made by the Bwa tribe. This type of mask goes on ones forehead to represent an owl or bird in flight.
Helmet masks are carved form a solid tree trunk, hollowed out to fit over ones head with carved out opening with eyes, mouth and nose.
These are just three different types of mask but there are so many more types. Even though masks are still used today you can find these masks all over the world displayed in museums and art galleries because this is such an old ritual found in Africa.
This type of creation may not be art to some, but just a way to connect with ancestors. But to many it is skillful creations that let African tribes to feel the empowerment of the world around them. I selected this type of art work because I love the way that African tribes have cultures, rituals and tradition that means so much to them. They hold these masked dances to speak to their ancestors and it is very interesting to watch. Here is a short clip of a masked dance performed by the Dogon tribe.