Exploring The History And Artistry Of African Masks

African masks are greatly appreciated for their artistic value. They adorn the walls of some of the most recognized museums and galleries across the world. Many of us incorporate masks into our homes to add an exotic flair to our décor, but it is important to recognize that beneath their surface beauty, these mysterious faces possess a deeper significance. Understanding their history is an essential part of appreciating their cultural, symbolic, and aesthetic value.

Promise of Prosperity Bead and Brass Repousse African Wall Mask with Animal Motifs Wall Art African Masks


The existence of African masks can be traced as far back as the Stone Age. For thousands of years, African people have incorporated tribal masks into their cultural ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations. Each of these creations is designed according to the particular traditions of their region. Designs vary from modest and plain to highly elaborate in appearance.

Flamingo Unique Hand Beaded Colorful African Wood Mask Wall Art Beautiful African Masks

African villagers hold deep and complex beliefs around masking ceremonies. It is thought that when a person (often a man) wears a mask, he becomes a sort of medium, capable of communicating with spirits and ancestors on behalf of the community. This is an effort to control the forces of good and evil by calling on the intervention and blessings of spirits to support and guide the community through such crucial life events as war preparation, crop harvesting, marriage, fertility, and burials.

Enigye Happiness Beautiful African Mask Crafted by Hand Wall Art Hand Carved Hand Painted


Since masks function as a vessel for contact with various spirit powers, the creator of the mask must possess both the technical skill and spiritual knowledge required to make them. These talented artisans, such as the men and women featured on the NOVICA site, sculpt faces in the shape of perfectly symmetrical human or animal forms using such varied materials as pottery, textiles, copper, aluminum or bronze. They finalize their creations by embellishing them with such varied materials as clay, ivory, horn, stone, feathers, and straw. Sometimes masks are made in the image of a female face which would be typically based on a particular culture’s ideal of feminine beauty.

Baule She Monkey Ivory Coast Baule Tribe Mbra Monkey Beautiful African Mask

It is believed that these artisans are able to sense the “spirit power” that dwells in the materials they use to create their pieces. The energy of the spirit is thought to inhabit the artists’ instruments, so their tools must be handled with extreme caution. As the mask gradually begins to take shape, the object is believed to acquire more supernatural ability. In some cultures, it is thought that this intimate relationship between the maker and his creation enables the artist himself to absorb some of its magic power.

Monifa Hand Carved Ghanaian Sese Wood Wall Mask with Raffia Wall Art Beautiful African Mask


In the Western world, we typically only wear masks during Halloween, masquerade parties, and other festive occasions, whereas mask-wearing has always been a vital part of African life. Masks are worn to disguise the face, sometimes in conjunction with a costume that covers the entire body. Their purpose is to enable the wearer to transform himself into the entity depicted by the mask. In essence, the wearer works in tandem with the mask during a ceremony to release its hidden power.

Kafo Horns Black and White Beaded African Wood Horn Wall Mask of Power Beautiful African Mask

While spectators from the community observe, the wearer (again, often a man,) engages in a highly animated performance in which he goes into a deep trance until the spirit completely inhabits and possesses his body. Music (primarily drums,) dance, song, and prayer are used to induce a state of trance by which this transformation can occur. This sets the stage for a supernatural exchange between the dancer and spirits, ancestors and other entities.

Zulu Blue Artisan Crafted Blue African Mask in Wood and Aluminum Wall Art Beautiful African Masks

In contemporary Africa, masks are no longer as commonly used for tribal ceremonies though they still represent one of the continent’s most vibrant contributions to the arts. The rich and vast offering of masks on the NOVICA site celebrates and honors the heritage of African masks and the talented artisans that create them.

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3 years ago

pls give me all of them, i is pore no mone.