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AFRICAN MASKS World Music Class p.7-8

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1 AFRICAN MASKS World Music Class p.7-8
In this unit you will enhance your knowledge and understanding of: Different Examples of African Masks The Role of the African Tribal Artists The Function of an African Mask The Materials of an African Mask The Use of Pattern in African Masks The Style of African Masks 10/04/2008

2 Examples of African Masks
Baule Mask This type of African mask is a Baule mask which is also known as a Goli mask. It is used in tribal dances during harvest festivals, in processions to honor distinguished visitors and at the funerals of important figures. The circular face represents the life-giving force of the sun and the horns symbolize 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. The Baule are farmers who populate the eastern side of the Ivory Coast. They are part of the Akan people, one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, who dwell in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

3 Examples of African Masks
Dan Mask Dan masks have a typically high forehead, pouting mouth and pointed chin. They may also have scarification marks like the line that splits the forehead and nose. Dan masks are carved in wood and stained with a brown dye. Dan masks are religious objects. Dan masks are used for protection and as a channel for communication with the spirit world. The Dan also carry small 'passport masks' for personal protection when they are living away from home. The Dan believe that their world is split into two domains: the human domain which is represented by the village and its people, and the spiritual domain which is represented by the forest and its spirits. When a dancer wears a Dan mask he becomes the spirit of that mask. A masked dancer will speak in the language of the spirits and his words are interpreted by a wise man. There are many different Dan masks, each of which has a distinct use during rituals or festivals. Some masks play an important part in tribal rites while others are simply for entertainment. Dan masks are guarded by the go master, the head of the secret society of the leopard who are responsible for the initiation rites of young men into adulthood.

4 Examples of African Masks
Kota Mask The Kota are noted for their sculptural figures which are called ‘mbulu-ngulu’. They are carved in wood and covered with sheets of brass or copper to increase their power. Kota figures have very stylish heads and simplified lozenge shaped bodies. Their faces are oval with a convex surface to represent males or a concave surface to represent females. Some figures have faces on both sides of the head. We call this Kota statues guardian or reliquary figures as they protect the relics of an ancestor that are contained in a box, basket or bundle called the ‘Bwete’. The Kota revere the relics of their ancestors as they believe that they can call on their power to assist them with their troubles in this life. The Kota are several different groups of people who share a similar culture. The word 'kota' means to bind or link together - an appropriate name to unite a tribe.

5 Examples of African Masks
Lulua Mask The name Lulua was given to the various peoples who live around the Lulua River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the German explorers Hermann Von Wissmann and Paul Pogge in 1881. The Lulua were famous for decorating their bodies with intricate scarification marks and tattoos. They also applied these designs to their sculptures and masks. The masks, which are rare, are usually incised with geometric pattern and colored with a reddish pigment. The pointed forms on the top of the head represent the Lulua hairstyle. The Lulua men hunt and the women farm.

6 Examples of African Masks
Pende Mask This is the mask which has a combination of a human and buffalo features. These masks are decorated with incised triangular grids that are often painted with dark and light pigments to create a checkerboard effect. The mask would be hung above the door or window of a chief’s dwelling. The Pende carve several different types of masks that they use to communicate with the spirits during rituals. The Pende believe that the spirits of their ancestors can positively or negatively influence the quality of their lives. The Pende are mostly farmers who supplement their diet by hunting and fishing. They live in the southwest area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

7 Examples of African Masks
Senufo Mask Senufo masks are created by specialist artists who live apart from the rest of their village. Senufo masks combine features of animals and humans in a single design. The Senufo artists have a high status in their society as their masks and sculptures are believed to have the power to help communication between the living and their dead ancestors. Senufo masks are used in the rites of the Poro society, a male organization that educates young men in the traditions and responsibilities necessary for their coming of age. The Senufo are a farming people that stretch across various bordering countries in West Africa including the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso and South Mali.

8 The 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 creates. 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.

9 The Role of the African Tribal Artist
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 qualities. Art without a 'spiritual dimension‘ is never unable to communicate those elevated emotions that are born from a deeper mystical inspiration.

10 The Function of an 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.

11 The Materials African masks are made from different materials: wood, bronze, brass, copper, ivory, terra cotta and textiles. They are often decorated with shells, colored beads, bone, and animal skins. The majority of masks and sculptures, however, are made of wood for two reasons: Trees are in plentiful supply in the forest. The carver believes that the tree has a spiritual soul and its wood is the most natural home for the spirit in the mask.

12 The Materials Before any tree is cut down, a sacrifice may be offered as a mark of respect to the spirit of the tree requesting its permission for the carving. Its life is governed by the same natural and supernatural forces that inspire the artist and his community. This type of ritual is common to many cultures that have a close spiritual bond with nature. Wooden masks are often colored with natural dyes and pigments created from vegetables, plants, seeds, tree bark, soil and insects. When tools are passed down through different generations, they sometimes inherit the spirit and skills of their previous owners. They, like the artist, his carving, and the tree from which it came, are all part of the ecological vision that informs all African tribal culture.

13 The Use of Pattern Most patterns tend to be geometrical and symmetrical and are used in a variety of ways. 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. Some patterns are often used as a form of coded information. 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.

14 The Elements of 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 community. 2. The individual vision of the carver. African tribal artists do not try to create a perfect representation of their subject. Although some realistic portraits are made, others celebrate more abstract qualities like nobility, beauty, courage, mischief and humour. They create an idealized version, emphasizing those elements that they consider most important:

15 The Elements of Style 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 portray the idealized 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.

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