AFRICAN MASKS - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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AFRICAN MASKS African Tribal Artist The African tribal artist's training, which may last many years, involves the knowledge of traditional carving techniques and how ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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African Tribal Artist
  • The African tribal artist's training, which may
    last many years, involves the knowledge of
    traditional carving techniques and how these
    apply to the social and religious objects he
  • His craft can be learned as an apprentice in the
    workshop of a master carver, or sometimes these
    skills are passed down from father to son through
    many generations of his family.
  • The artist holds a respected position in African
    tribal society. It is his job to provide the
    various masks and sculptures for use in ritual
    ceremonies. His work is valued for its spiritual,
    rather than its aesthetic qualities.

Function of the African Mask
  • African masks should be seen as part of a
    ceremonial costume.
  • 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.
  • They come to life, possessed by their spirit in
    the performance of the dance, and are enhanced by
    both the music and atmosphere of the occasion.
  • Some combine human and animal features to unite
    man with his natural environment. This bond with
    nature is of great importance to the African and
    through the ages masks have always been used to
    express this relationship. 

What is the Mask made of?
  • African masks are made from different materials
    wood, bronze, brass, copper, ivory, terracotta
    and glazed pottery, raffia and textiles.
  • They are often decorated with cowrie shells,
    coloured beads, bone, animal skins and vegetable
  • However, the majority of masks and sculptures are
    made of wood for two reasons
  • 1. Trees are in plentiful supply in the forest.
  • 2. The carver believes that the tree has a
    spiritual soul and its wood     is the most
    natural home for the spirit in the mask.
  • Wooden masks are often coloured with natural dyes
    and pigments created from vegetables, plants,
    seeds, tree bark, soil and insects. Occasionally
    they are splashed with sacrificial blood to
    increase their spiritual power.

Patterns in the Mask
  • Bold pattern, either painted or carved, is a
    powerful and expressive element in African mask
  • Most patterns tend to be geometrical and
    symmetrical and are used in a variety of ways
  • Parallel, zigzag, cruciform, curved and spiral
    lines, representing scarification marks or
    tattoos, are frequently used to adorn the planes
    of the mask face. These can denote social status
    or have magical or religious powers.
  • Different geometric patterns are sometimes used
    to distinguish between male and female masks
  • Square and triangular checkerboard grids are
    often carved to decorate sections of a design.
  • A variety of complex braided hairstyles adorn the
    top of the head.

Mask Style
  • There are two main forces that influence the
    style of an African tribal mask
  • 1. The traditional style that is dictated by
    the social and religious  beliefs of the
  • 2. The individual vision of the carver.
  • COMPOSITION -  Formal symmetrical arrangements of
    line, shape and form in figures and masks evoke
    integrity and dignity.
  • TEXTURE -  Skilled craftsmanship, fine detail and
    quality of finish are of great importance to the
    African tribal artist. Highly polished surfaces
    which represent a youthful healthy skin reflect
    the idea of beauty and virtue, while rough dirty
    surfaces suggest fear and evil. Many African
    carvings portay the idealised human figure in its
    prime, brimming with health, strength, and
    celebrating fertility or virility.
  • SHAPE - African masks take on many forms. They
    can be oval, circular, rectangular, elongated,
    heart-shaped, animal or human, or any combination
    of these.

Baule Mask
  • The Baule are farmers who populate the eastern
    side of the Ivory Coast. This type of Baule mask
    is known as a Goli mask.
  • It is used in dances during harvest festivals and
    in processions to honour distinguished visitors.
  • The circular face represents the life-giving
    force of the sun and the horns symbolise the
    great power of the buffalo.
  • The mask is made of wood with two holes cut into
    the eyes to enable the wearer to see.
  • The rectangular mouth is also typical of this
    type of mask.

Ligbi Masks
  • The Ligbi people are a community from the Ivory
  • Ligbi masks are used in the celebration of
    Islamic holidays, especially the end of Ramadan.
  • The dancers who wear these masks are noted for
    their elegantly synchronised movements as they
    dance in pairs.
  • The typical Ligbi mask has an elongated face
    trimmed with wings on either side.
  • The eyes are shaded and the mouth is rectangular.
  • Both animal and human forms are combined in its
  • Make-up and jewellery are also added to decorate
    these masks during the celebration.

Biombo Masks
  • The Biombo live in the Democratic Republic of the
  • Biombo masks are usually carved from wood and
    coloured with a red / orange dye.
  • The eyes are a typical coffee bean shape.
  • A triangular checkerboard design is used to
    decorate the eyebrows and the planes of the face.
  • The three forms at the back of the head represent
    the Biombo hairstyle.
  • Biombo masks are usually worn during tribal

Bwa Maks
  • The Bwa come from Mali and Burkina Faso.
  • Bwa masks are believed to possess special powers
    which are controlled by those who wear them.
  • These masks are plank shaped with a circular face
    at one end and a crescent moon at the other.
  • Their wearer looks through a hole in the mouth.
  • The eyes are based on an owl and the hooked nose
    comes from the hornbill.
  • The designs on this Bwa Mask, which is used to
    celebrate boys' initiation to adulthood,
    represent information about myths and morality
    that the boys must learn before they can be
    accepted into adult society.

Lets make our own Mask!
Step 1
  • To begin with you need two similar sized sheets
    of card, one light in tone, one dark.
  • The contrasting tones will be used to create a
    balance of positive and negative features in the
  • You will also need a pencil, scissors or craft
    knife, and some glue
  • Arrange the sheets in portrait format.
  • Fold the light sheet in half down its vertical
    length and cut along the crease. This should give
    you two equal halves.
  • Then take one light half and place it over the
    dark sheet to create a symmetrical arrangement
    like the one illustrated above - one half dark,
    one half light.

Step 2
  • Draw a stylised eye about halfway down the light
  • Stylised or exaggerated features are used to help
    express more abstract qualities like nobility,
    integrity, courage, fear and humour.

Step 2 Continued
  • Cut out the eye shape, flip it over and place it
    on the dark sheet to form a symmetrical
  • You will now begin to see the counterchange of
    pattern which will be used throughout this mask
    design - a perfect balance between dark and
    light, positive and negative. 

Step 3
  • Draw one half of a stylised nose on the light
    coloured paper.
  • This should stretch from just above the eyes to
    roughly halfway between the eyes and the bottom
    of the sheet.

Step 3 Continued
  • Cut out the nose and flip it over.
  • Place it on the dark sheet and align it with the
    vertical edge of the light paper.
  • This will complete its symmetrical shape and
    maintain the tonal counterchange of the mask

Step 4
  • Next, draw one half of a stylised mouth on the
    light sheet.

Step 4 Continued
  • Cut out the mouth and flip it over.
  • As before, place it on the dark sheet and align
    it with the vertical edge of the light paper to
    complete its shape.
  • Note that the inside of the mouth has also been
    cut out and flipped onto the light side of the
    design to create the illusion of an opening.  

Step 5
  • Draw a simple outline for the face on the light
  • This could be oval, circular, rectangular,
    elongated, heart-shaped, animal-shaped or human,
    or any combination of these.
  • Different outline shapes will give you different
    expressive effects.

Step 5 Continued
  • Cut around the outline of the face and leave the
    remaining face shape in position.
  • Then take the background shape, flip it over to
    the other side and align it with the vertical
    centre line.
  • This will create the background for the other
    side of the face, while its negative space will
    define the other side of the head.

Step 6
  • Draw some tattoo designs or scarification marks
    on the light side of the face.
  • These markings are often used on masks to
    communicate coded information or social status.
  • They can also represent magical or religious

Step 6 Continued
  • Cut out the tattoo or scarification marks, flip
    them over and place them on the opposite side of
    the design to create a symmetrical arrangement.
  • Symmetrical arrangements of line, shape and form
    in masks evoke a sense of integrity and dignity. 

Step 7
  • On the light background draw a stylish design to
    represent hair or braids.
  • A straight linear design representing hair braids
    is used here to contrast with the curves on the
    rest of the mask.

Step 7 Continued
  • Cut out the stylised hair braid, flip it over and
    place it onto the dark side of the design to
    complete the symmetry and counterchange of the

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