African Tribal Art Masks
Popular African Tribal Masks
Masks have long been the most recognized and popular form of African art. Over time African masks have evolved from been an integral part of African culture and traditions to souvenir tourist art. While few African people still practice their ancient traditions in which masks play a revered role it is still possible to find authentic, ancient African masks in these modern times. One can witness masks in use during festivals or entertainment events in some African villages. It is also possible to buy masks however, like all rare objects ancient African masks are expensive and are mostly found in museums or private collections. Fortunately, there are also affordable African masks that are sold online and in many African countries. This lens examines some of the more popular and common African tribal masks. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia: Mulwalwa African Tribal Mask by Andreas Praefcke.
The Fang people come from southern Gabon which is located in West-Central Africa. Ngil masks from Gabon are among the most recognized and popular African masks. It is believed Picasso's art in particular "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," was influenced by Ngil masks. Within the Fang tribe Ngil masks were worn by members of the Ngi male secret society during initiation ceremonies and when seeking out wrongdoers. Authentic Ngil masks are rare and very expensive however one can find replicas at a cheaper price. In general Ngil masks feature an elongated face painted in white with features outlined in black.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia: Fang Ngil African Tribal Mask by Jastrow.
Fang African Masks at Amazon
Bwa masks are very popular and my personal favorites. I love the color and geometric shapes in these masks as well as the elegance and beauty of them. The Bwa people are found in Burkina Faso and Mali in West Africa. Like many other African tribes the Bwa believe their masks have special powers which are controlled by the wearers. There are a number of famous Bwa masks which include the butterfly masks, serpent masks, hawk masks and plank shaped masks. Bwa masks usually incorporate animal features, geometric patterns and red, white and black colors. The masks are used in initiation ceremonies, harvest celebrations and funeral rites and are believed to have protective properties.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia: Bwa African Tribal Mask by Wegmann.
Miniature Metal Art Masks - Handmade Metal Art Cards
Handmade metal art card featuring Bwa African Sun Mask at http://poetry-and-art-by-injete-chesoni.blogspot.com/.
The Dan people come from Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Guinea and Liberia in West Africa. Masks were extremely important among the Dan people and were used for a variety of functions including rituals, pre-war ceremonies, peace-making ceremonies and entertainment. The Dan also were known for carrying passport masks which were copies of family masks. These passport masks were carried for personal protection while away from home. Dan masks are empowered by spirit forces called "gle" and thus it is common to find the masks having names like deangle or takangle. The Deangle mask as illustrated in the picture is used to teach, entertain, nurture and support peaceful activities in the village. Deangle masks tend to have an oval face, high forehead, pouting mouth and pointed chin. They are often covered in a rich brown dye and may have scar marks forming a vertical line in the forehead.
Wikimedia African Mask Pictures: Deangle Dan Mask .
Okuye, Mukuyi and Mukudj Masks
The Punu people reside along the banks of Upper Ngoume River in Gabon. Punu masks stand out from other African masks due to their Oriental appearance. The masks are representative of the idealized beauty of Punu women. They feature elaborate tall hairdos, nine diamond shaped scar marks on the forehead and almond shaped eyes with arched brows. Some of the masks feature horizontal lines running from ear to ear which are representative of jewelry. They are often painted white with Kaolin clay to represent the spirit world, although there are also less common black Punu masks. The black masks may have played a different role of judgement. White Punu masks aka known as Okuye, Mukuyi or Mukudj masks are worn by men in Punu and Lumbo cultures to represent spirits of dead maidens. Dancers wearing the masks also adorn stilts and carry whips.
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia: Punu Mukudj African Tribal Mask .
The Senufo people live in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali in West Africa. They have a variety of masks which are used for different functions. Senufo masks are created by artisans who do not reside within the village and are highly esteemed due to the power embodied in their creations. The Senufo like many other African tribes believe that masks can be used for communication between the living and the dead. In general Senufo masks combine animal and human features. They are commonly used for initiation rites by the Poro male society. The kpelie mask in the illustration features a human face with projections it is used to remind initiates of human imperfections. It is worn by male dancers who perform as female characters.
Wikimedia Pictures of Masks: Senufo Kpelie African Tribal Mask by Hannes Grobe.