The Aesthetic Account Of African Ceremonial Masks
The origin of African ceremonial masks can be traced back to the Paleolithic times. Down the tradition these masks are mostly made of metal, fabric, leather and various wood types. African ceremonial masks are considered as artistic gems and they are much treasured by several art collectors. African ceremonies which involve mask making have high cultural and traditional significance. The allure and genius of African art are well expressed in these specific art forms.
More about the masks
Not all can wear African ceremonial masks. Only chosen and initiated African dancers are allowed to wear these mask varieties especially during celebrations like war preparation, at times of troubles and peace and on the occasion of crop harvesting. African ceremonial masks are worn in three specific ways. The first mask variety vertically covers the face, the second mask is worn as a helmet and the third mask variety encases the entire head in form of a crest which can well rest over the head. The masks are made in a way to represent spirits and it is believed that when one wears a mask he is being hold on by the spirits of his ancestors.
The link between superstition and African ceremonial mask
African religious ceremonies center around ancestral spirits, mythological beings, the good and the evil, several deities, all that is dead and spirits of the animals. In fact, it is a matter of pride for the Africans to possess these masks of totem and human ancestors. At times it may so happen that the masks are much worshiped and they are being offered at multiple ceremonies as gifts.
It is believed that when the dancers wear these African ceremonial masks they enter into a trance like state and in this way they can form a link with their ancestors. Often a wise man or a translator accompanies the mask wearer the time of the ritual. It is an accepted belief that the dancer narrates the messages being delivered by his ancestors. Often the messages are being delivered in an unclear fashion by the dancer. This is where the translator enters the scene where he describes clearly and executes the messages for the proper understanding of the common men. These ceremonies and rituals seem majestic as they are celebrated with lovely songs, dance and music.
These masks function in two different ways. One form of mask is meant for public ceremonies where the audience has a scope to participate and the other mask type is used for private ceremonies especially for those who are essential parts of a secret society.
The belief associated with African ceremonial masks
Some African tribesmen are of the opinion the way the mask is created provides power to this facial cover and all masks are created with reasons. African ceremonial masks are made and worn for the proper growth of crops and also for the wellbeing of the society. It is also believed that the power of the mask to a great extent depends upon how important and genuine the cause is. In fact, African ceremonial masks are in the truest sense integral parts of African culture and civilization.
Students of culture as well as several anthropologists have often tried to study the characteristics of these African ceremonial masks to have an insight into the life and culture of this traditional lot. In fact, the masks are great ways of exploring the lives of West African people.
The way African ceremonial masks are made
The features of these traditional masks are often overstated or made hyperbolic with wonderful color variations. Often raffia is used to create movements and sounds and this gives more prominence to ghostly appearances. At times the masks are decorated with shells and feathers to impart more wealth and power. The African ceremonial masks are often quite rigid and long lasting and they are made with such perfection that they can be used both for hanging and wearing purposes.
More about the curving of African ceremonial masks
Well trained and expert artisans craft these African ceremonial masks with utmost genius. The Kenyans usually make glazed terra masks where as the artisans in other parts of African are more capable of making wooden masks of all sorts. Artisans of Ghana especially of the Eket tribe make masks using Sese wood. This wood is quite hard and durable.
In short, African ceremonial masks are creations par excellence and for the African dwellers the masks are not just pieces of art. For them, the mask is a sign of power and might.