How to Make a Zulu Mask

Updated April 17, 2017

The Zulus of South Africa, unlike some other African tribal groups, traditionally did not use masks in their ceremonies or rituals. Beginning in the 1900s, however, they began creating masks as art pieces and eventually began using them occasionally for dances or public displays. The Zulus use hard dark woods for their masks, carving elongated facial shapes. Added decor is minimal, consisting primarily of white or light-coloured striped patterns across the surface of the mask. True Zulu masks are not ornate or embellished with beads, hair or artificial materials.

Draw a large oval on the craft foam or cardboard. It may have either rounded or slightly pointed edges at the top and bottom. The oval should be large enough to completely cover the face.

Cut out the mask. Measure the distance between the eyes. Draw two 1-inch eye holes centred on the mask template; place these the same distance apart as the eye measurement. Carefully cut out the eye holes.

Cover the work surface with newspaper to protect it. Paint the entire mask with the dark-coloured paint. Allow the mask to dry completely for 1 to 2 hours. Add striped patterns or designs with the white craft paint. Allow to dry for 1 hour.

Poke a small hole on each side of the mask, 1/2 to 1 inch from the edge and aligned horizontally with the eye holes. Pull one end of the elastic through each hole from the back to the front. Tie a knot in the end of the elastic large enough to keep it from pulling out. Adjust the length of the elastic as needed to comfortably hold the mask on the head. Cover up the elastic knots with dark paint, if desired. Allow paint to dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Thick craft foam or cardboard
  • Pencil
  • Heavy-duty scissors or box cutters
  • Measuring tape
  • Newspapers
  • Paintbrushes
  • Brown or black poster paint
  • White craft paint
  • Hole punch
  • 10-inch piece of narrow elastic
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About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.