How to Make a Paper African Mask

Written by dawn r. levesque
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How to Make a Paper African Mask
Creating paper masks allows you to bring your own interpretations to African art. (Dawn R. Levesque, Gernheim)

African masks are a notable symbol of African culture. Crafted individually with geometrical symbols representative of traditional style, the masks are highly sought after. Made from various materials including woods, fabric or metal, the masks are available for viewing in museums and galleries around the world. Recreate an African mask from paper to bring your interpretation to a symbolic and cultural art.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Poster board
  • Construction paper or speciality paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Drawing or image of an African mask

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  1. 1

    Select a mask from photographs and images of African masks. Look online, through magazines, books and in museums or galleries. Tear out an image or make a copy of it for reference.

  2. 2

    Fold poster board in half. Pencil a half moon away from the folded side of paper. Cut out the moon shape. When the poster board is unfolded, you should have an oval shape left. If the chosen mask has cutouts at the top or bottom of the form, cut out the pieces accordingly.

    How to Make a Paper African Mask
    Start by cutting a half-moon shape from a folded paper.
  3. 3

    Note the facial features on the mask. Notice its expression and structure. Is the face horizontal or vertical? Is it in profile or frontward? Outline similar shapes onto construction paper: eyes, brows, nose and mouth as applicable. For the nose, fold coloured paper in half and cut it out. Glue only the corners to make it three-dimensional. Cut out remaining facial features and glue them onto the mask.

    How to Make a Paper African Mask
    Use contrasting paper for the facial features.
  4. 4

    Look at the fundamental geometric structures on the African mask image. Are they smooth and sculpted, moulded to the face? Or do they stand out and appear more tribal in nature? Break down the image into basic shapes. Draw the shapes onto pieces of construction paper. Try to use paper as close as in colour to the mask. Cut them out. Position them onto the face of the mask and glue one piece at a time.

Tips and warnings

  • If the mask selected has hair, cut raffia or strips of paper 18 inches long. With a raffia/paper tie, wrap the strips and tie them in a knot at the centre or off to the side of the forehead. Glue on the hair to the top of the mask.
  • Let the mask air dry completely.
  • Hang the mask on a wall for display.

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