Time Travel Tuesday: African Masks

September 6, 2011

Yes folks, it’s time for another Time Travel Tuesday with the lovely Sara of Brown Paper Bag! This week’s topic is African Masks, something that I’ve been planning on posting about for a while now, so the timing is perfect! Sara found some incredible masks and writes a bit about their history and cultural significance below- so fascinating! And don’t forget to cruise over to BPB for my TTT post about Anna Atkins’ revolutionary photos of British algae- the FIRST photos by a woman and the FIRST book composed of photographs ever published! And without further ado….

Masks have existed for centuries and in a myriad of cultures. I’d like to talk about African masks, which are not only aesthetically interesting and pleasing, but loaded with symbolism and the rich tradition of a culture.

African masks were worn during celebrations, crop harvesting, war preparations, and more. Ritual ceremonies generally depicted deities, ancestors, mythical creatures, and others who had some sort of power over humanity. During such times, the dancer(s) (and wearer of the mask) would enter into a deep trance and communicate with the ancestors using the power of the mask.

Masks could represent the dwelling spirit present within a clan, or the essence of a tribe. Revered, masks were often honored or offered gifts.

African masks really vary in their construction and physical appearance, but are beautifully crafted and laden with symbols and a deep history that unfolds through each and every one. Some focus simply on form and the cast of the mask, while my favorites tend to be the more colorful and energetic pieces. They more clearly represent joy or, at the very least, a more light-hearted attitude.

All images via Masks of the World. Information found on Rebirth Africa.

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