African Mask History

African masks are a popular art form in the present and were extremely popular in the past among African tribes dating back to the Paleolithic times. These masks varied in size, shape, and mediums including fabric, metal, various woods, and leather. African masks are highly sought after by collectors and art history connoisseurs alike because they are considered some of the most unique and fine art creations in the world. You can find African masks in almost any major art gallery and museum all over the world. Today, you can find a myriad of mask replica’s for sale in stores all over the place. Masks in ancient Africa, as well as today, bear cultural, religious, and ceremonial significance; understanding of these values helps art historians fully grasp the significance of the artist’s expression when creating a mask. African masks are traditionally worn by a chosen dancer during celebrations, crop harvesting, preparing for war, peace, hardship, initiations, weddings, funerals and any other major events that occur in a lifetime. African masks are worn in ceremonies in different ways. For example they can be worn vertically covering the face, as crests resting on the head, or as helmets that encompass the entire head to convey a disguise. In many celebrations African masks represent spirits, where the spirit of ancestors is believed to possess the wearer of the mask. In rituals masks represent deities, mythological beasts and gods, metaphors for good and evil, the dead, animals, nature, and any other force that is considered stronger than humankind.