African Tribal Masks for Kids to Make

Written by catherine bowers | 13/05/2017
African Tribal Masks for Kids to Make
Stylised African tribal masks often represent humans, spirits and animals. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Masks figure prominently in the traditional ceremonies of many African tribes. Western influences and political unrest diminish the prominence of the tribes' masks and rituals, but the masks' history is valuable and they are still used on special occasions. Kids can create masks inspired by African tribes to learn about new cultures and traditions.

Dogon Masks

African Tribal Masks for Kids to Make
Animals like antelope are important and celebrated in Dogon tribal life. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The Dogon tribe is found in Mali in West Africa. Dogon members honour ancestors every 13 years in their Dama celebration. Masks representing important parts of Dogon life, such as hunters and indigenous animals, are worn by members while dancing to drums in the Dama celebration. The Dogon carve their masks out of wood, but kids can construct Dogon-inspired masks using cardboard, scissors and paints. A hunter mask has a fierce expression and its main colour is brown, like the colour of human skin; decorate a mask with the Dogan tribe's traditional colours of black, red and white. Rabbit or antelope masks are also a natural brown colour, but with less fierce expressions than the hunter mask. Dogan bird masks are often coloured black and white to resemble the Kommono Tebu bird, a common species in Dogon lands.

Lwalwa Masks

The Lwalwa tribe is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lwalwa sculptors create wooden masks that tribal members wear in religious ceremonies to appease the gods after hunting or to celebrate manhood. Masks have geometric, symmetrical features with deep foreheads, narrow eyes, large angular noses and protruding mouths. Kids can make a traditional-style Lwalwa ceremonial mask with cardboard and yellow-gold and deep yellow paint. Cut the cardboard with a pointed V-shape for the chin, half-circles for ears and rounded shape for the hair and skull. Cut narrow rectangle shapes for the eye holes. Paint the entire mask yellow or gold. Use the deep yellow paint to add a long nose stretching to the top of the head. Add solid-coloured deep yellow circles for the eyes and two half-circles for the lips.

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