How to Identify African Masks

Written by kim fuller
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How to Identify African Masks
Wood is a common material used to make African masks. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

African masks have been made in many areas throughout the continent and are associated with various tribes, so they often can look vary different from one another. Masks have also been made in different styles and types of materials. There are several characteristics you can look for to identify whether a mask has been made in Africa.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • African mask pictures

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  1. 1

    Use African mask pictures for reference to see what various masks can look like and how they are worn. This will help you compare the mask you are trying to identify with masks already confirmed as African in origin.

  2. 2

    Identify the way a mask was worn. African masks have often been worn different ways to mark significant events, such as celebrations, initiations, wartime, harvest season and times of drought. They have been worn vertically covering the face, as helmets completely encompassing the head and the face, and as crests on the top of the head.

  3. 3

    Look at the type of material the mask has been made from. African masks are generally made from various types of wood, with leather, fabric and metal to decorate them.

  4. 4

    Take notice of the carvings and expressions the mask has been given. African masks have often been used to look like and represent spirits, ancestors, animals and deities believed to impact humanity in many African tribal traditions.

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