Used through-out Africa the mask is a large part of the tribal tradition and way of life. Varying in style, composition and importance the masks are made and used by tribes for similar reasons. These reasons or occasion ranging from joyful in the celebration of harvest, sorrow as in a funeral procession, serious when land may be threatened by drought conditions, or even serious when tribes feel the need to ward off evil spirit.
Masks play a very important part in the lives of the young when they come of age and enter into the adult world. Above all, masks are used in ceremonies where wisdom and experience of the elders is passed down to the younger generation. Where these ceremonies take place masks may be used that represent many things: their ancestors, good and evil spirits, dangerous bush and water spirits or even illness.
Masks are made from many different materials ranging from woven fibre, cane framed skin masks, cloth and wood. Predominantly wooden masks are made from one piece of wood and will cover the wearers face or whole of the head. They can be painted either very plainly in one colour or very vibrantly with a variety of colour. Adornments can also be added in the form of cowrie shells, glass beads, plant fibers, raffia and even material that would then completely hide the wearer. Whether a mask depicts a human styled face or a representation of an animal form of which there are many elephant, antelope, hyena, monkey, leopard, crocodile, fish, bird or snake to name a few they are all unique to their particular tribe.
Carvers of the mask are true craftsmen and produce real beautiful works of art to uphold their ceremonies and tribal traditions.
The kplekple masks are classed as a junior mask (in some villages classed as the offspring of the Glin and the Kpwan masks, Glin being the father and Kpwan the mother). In the Goli festival there are usually 2 kplekple masks, one black "kplekple yasua" (male) and the other being red, the "kplekple bla" (female).
Yagule masks are also know as Peul/Bede. Bede being a slightly different variation on the Yagule mask. Also being known as Jeune fille translated to Young girl. Dancers that wear these masks usually perform the dance whilst wearing stilts.
The border between Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia cuts across several ethnic groups, including the Dan, Wee, Kran, and Grebo. In Dan society, dangerous immaterial forest spirits are translated into the forms of human face masks.
These masks are uncommon and until very recently they were identified as being from the Koro people of Nigeria. The red abrus seeds (Abrus precatorius) which are very poisonous, were meticulously threaded and attached to the plant fibre structure in rows forming a wonderful overall visual.
The Senufo Wanyugo mask (double headed) is worn in various ceremonies of the village, during the initiation of the new generation, also during funerals to drive away evil spirits before the ceremony
Over twenty types of masks are used among the Kuba, with meanings and functions that vary from group to group. Kuba wooden helmet masks are probably the most commonly produced items, popular with the collectors.
Antelope masks, among the most popular Dogon masks, are admired by the Dogon for their beauty and the strength of their performance. The face of the mask is usually a rectangular box, like that of the sim mask, but in this example the artist has completely opened up the face, eliminating the two channels for the eyes and adding a short, arrow-shaped nose.
PROVENANCE: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection. dannana aggressively hunts another masquerader, the rabbit, but fails to catch him. The rabbit in this context is the trickster, intelligent and cunning, able to defy man. The pairing of hunter and rabbit may refer to the myth recounting how the first hunter mask was created.
PROVENANCE: Ex Seward Kennedy Collection. The Bamana Ntomo masks were worn by boys as they passed through the early cycle of initiation into manhood. The masks reinforce the lessons the boys are taught as they are prepared by elder males in the society for circumcision.
The "Kanaga" mask can be interpreted in different ways: crocodile, creator genius, but also "bird in flight". According to the latter interpretation it represents the bird "kommolo tebu" with spread wings and black and white plumage, when after its shooting the hunter carved the first "kanaga".
Dogon art is extremely versatile, although common stylistic characteristics – such as a tendency towards stylization – are apparent on the statues. Their art deals with the myths whose complex ensemble regulates the life of the individual.
Luwesegle is the villagers give this mask, which means "bush ghost mask". This mask is bought out during ceremonies for every generation's celebration to chase / drive evil spirits away and purify the village.
A stunning mask field collected from a village near a town called "Man".