Making an African mask out of paper plates is a simple project that will allow young artists to practice their craft, and at the same time, will introduce children to the rich and colourful traditional art of African culture. Provide a few inexpensive craft supplies, and let young imaginations run wild. Encourage the artists to have fun while creating an African mask that reflects their own individual personality.
Draw a simple African mask design on a paper plate, using a pencil. The African mask can be a person, an animal, or an African design.
Use a craft knife to cut holes for your eyes. Young children will need adult assistance with this step.
Twist a piece of newspaper or coloured tissue paper into the shape of a nose. Glue the nose to the paper plate with white craft glue. Create a mouth the same way. Allow the glue to dry before you proceed with the African mask.
Paint the African mask with poster paint in the colour of your choice, using a small sponge brush. Paint the mask a solid colour because you will add decorations later. Set the African mask aside to dry. To eliminate the need for paint, use coloured paper plates.
Use a small artist's paint brush to create dots and stripes on the mask, using poster paint in a colour that will contrast with the colour of the mask. Allow the mask to dry. If you prefer, instead of painting, you can cut dots and stripes from colourful construction paper and glue the dots and stripes to the mask.
Punch six to eight holes around the edge of the top half of the mask. Bend a chenille pipe cleaner in half. Loop the pipe cleaner through a hole and twist the halves of the pipe cleaner together so the pipe cleaner is sticking straight out from the mask. Repeat with all of the holes.
String tube-shaped beads on each twisted chenille pipe cleaner. You can also paint tubular pasta, allow the pasta to dry, and place it on the pipe cleaners.
Instead of using a paper punch and pipe cleaners, young children can choose to glue other decorations along the top edge of the paper plate. Ideas include construction paper cut in feather shapes, strips of colourful tissue or wrapping paper, or real feathers.
Create ties by punching a hole in the middle on each side of the plate. Attach a length of ribbon to each hole. If you want to hang the mask on the wall, glue a lightweight picture hanger on the back of the mask.
Before beginning, share some pictures of actual African masks with the children. You can find pictures in books and magazines or on line. Talk about the use of the masks in tribal rituals. You may also want to discuss the importance of African masks to famous artists such as Pablo Picasso.