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Information About the African Tribal Mask

Updated March 23, 2017

African tribal masks aren't just art, but have long been a part of tribal religion and culture. African tribal masks came in literally thousands of different looks, shapes, and forms based on their use and the specific tribe the mask came from.

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The history of tribal masks goes back thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years. Thousands of tribes in Africa had masks that often served spiritual purposes or purposes of war.


The function of the African tribal mask was most often a social and sacred thing. Masks would be brought out for celebrations or sacred ceremonies to represent the tribes' bonds with the land and nature.


Material used for these tribal masks varied greatly. Most were carved with wood and dyed with local colours, but there are some modern masks made from stone or even bronze.


Patterns vary greatly from tribe to tribe and mask to mask. Different shapes, carvings, or paintings can denote social status, gender, magical powers, religious powers, or other coded information.

African Masks as Sacred Objects

African tribal masks were often considered sacred within each tribe and were brought out for festivals and events that were considered important.

Modern Usage

Some tribes put on shows with their native dances and tribal masks, but in modern times just as often basic tribal masks are mass produced by hand to sell to tourists.

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About the Author

Monty Dayton

Monty Dayton is a professional freelance writer who has worked for the ACLU, Touchstone Publishing LLC, the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and many other employers. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska and loves writing about travel, the outdoors and health topics.

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