How to Create African Masks

Written by kasandra rose
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African masks are stylised representations of faces. Create an African mask for wall decor. These masks can be very expressive, harmonic works of art that evoke feelings in the viewer depending on the facial emotions each mask depicts. Symmetry is an important element of African masks and they are often created in pairs adding to the symmetrical element. If you do create a pair of masks, keep the style the same while varying the facial expression to give unity to the artwork.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • 1 sheet off-white card stock
  • Scissors
  • 1 sheet brown card stock
  • Pencil
  • Razor knife
  • Glue

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  1. 1

    Set up the card stock in portrait orientation. Fold the off-white card stock in half longways and cut along the fold. Overlay this onto the brown card stock.

  2. 2

    Study some stylised eyes and African masks before designing your wall art.

  3. 3

    Draw a stylised eye in the middle of the off-white sheet, slightly closer to the centre line than the outside edge. Size the eye to take up two-thirds of the width of the sheet.

  4. 4

    Cut out the stylised eye with a razor knife from the off-white card stock revealing the brown card stock below. Flip the cut out eye pieces over and place them in a mirrored position on the brown card stock.

  5. 5

    Draw a nose on the off-white card stock beginning above the eyes and ending one eye distance or more below the eyes. Cut the nose out and flip the off-white card stock over onto the brown card stock making a mirrored nose.

  6. 6

    Draw half of a mouth on the off-white card stock beneath the nose and cut it out. As with the nose, flip the mouth over to form a mirrored mouth on the brown half of the card stock.

  7. 7

    Outline the shape of the face on the off-white half of the card stock. This need not be realistic or even human. It can be geometric or animalistic. Again, cut along the outline and flip the off-white card stock over onto the brown side.

  8. 8

    Add stylised tattoos, hair and any other symbols important to your message. As before, draw on the off-white side, cut out and place onto the brown side.

  9. 9

    Glue the off-white pieces onto the brown card stock carefully lining up the central line. It's easiest to start with the large exterior shaping piece where you can line up the edges of the cut out off-white card stock against the brown background. Once you secure the background, you can use it to position the largest pieces on the opposite side, always lining up the central line.

Tips and warnings

  • Before you begin, consider what story or message you want to tell with your masks. For instance, if you're showing ferocity consider angular styles with animalistic face shapes and pointed teeth; for a gentler aspect use rounded forms.
  • Add complexity to your mask by mottling the two colours slightly with paints. Do not blur the contrast between the light and dark side so much that you obscure the face and diminish the impact of your art.
  • One approach to making a pair of masks is to cut two of everything and simply reverse the light and dark sides.

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