African Tribe Masks Blog #7

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.

Chokewe tribe, unknown date, unknown title

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.

Bwa Tribe in Burkino Faso, Africa
Unknown date, unknown title

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.

Unknown date, title and location tribe

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.

Citations:

http://www.rebirth.co.za/african_mask_basic%20forms.htm

hyyp:// http://www.answers.com/topic/african-art

http://www.youtube.com/

http://www.randafricanart.com/Mende_mask.html

http://www.rebirth.co.za/african_mask_history_and_meaning.htm

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5 thoughts on “African Tribe Masks Blog #7

  1. I really like the works of art you chose for this assignment. I think my favorite mask is the owl/bird mask from the Bwa Tribe. The helmet mask looks very cool, but it doesn’t look like it would be very comfortable to wear (it looks very heavy). I enjoyed learning about the history and importance behind the masks. I also found it very interesting how people would rub oils on themselves to protect themselves from evil spirits.

    You mentioned that African Tribe Masks are being sold/displayed in art galleries. Has this impacted the meaning/importance/role of African Tribe Masks in African culture? Have African Tribe Masks become more commercialized and made to make profit, or do they still hold a lot of religious/spiritual importance?

  2. I really enjoyed watching the short video clip that you added. Seeing pictures of masks doesn’t let you get the whole picture. I was able to understand and really visualize the importance of the masks in their rituals. I think it is really interesting that one thing that is common among so many tribes around the world is the use of masks and even though on some basic level they are so similar each tribe makes them so unique and purely their own.

    I never thought of a mask being a helmet, that was a new concept for me. I can see how it can add to the mask from the artists perspective. Great Blog I really enjoyed it!

    • These masks are really cool pieces of art! I thought this was a very interesting blog and fun to read about. There was lots of great info and the video was really cool. I thought it was a great addition. It was neat to be able to see how and in what way these masks are actually used. Great job!

  3. These masks are really cool pieces of art! I thought this was a very interesting blog and fun to read about. There was lots of great info and the video was really cool. I thought it was a great addition. It was neat to be able to see how and in what way these masks are actually used. Great job!

  4. The masks are beautiful and I like that you chose a form of art that is so timeless. While I saw many people chose paintings, I liked that the masks could be made from any material to suit just about any purpose. I also felt you provided a great history of the pieces as well as your own take on them.

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