Costumes and masks worn by africans in ritual dances and tribal ceremonies 

African masks are possibly the most admired and well known art form of Africa. They are both idea and form. The artistry of African masks is self evident but for the people who create them, They have a much deeper meaning than surface beauty, the mask form is a physical mechanism to initiate transformation whereby the wearer takes on a new entity, allowing him to have influence on the spirits to whom he is appealing to or offering thanks. 

This mask was stylized using simple geometric forms to represent the features of the face. The eyes of the mask are rectangular holes and the nose is a long flat triangle that often stretches to the top of the head. The ears are reduced to small bumps and a stylized mouth projects from above a pointed chin. This mask is carved from a wood called ‘mulela’ and colored with a dye from the fruit of the ‘mukula’ tree, also called the ‘bloodwood’ or ‘sealing wax’ tree.
This type of African mask is a Baule mask which is also known as a Goli mask. It is used in tribal dances during harvest festivals, in processions to honour distinguished visitors and at the funerals of important figures. The circular face represents the life-giving force of the sun and the horn style feather symbolize the great power of the buffalo. The mask is made of fibre, hair and abrus seeds with two holes cut into the eyes to enable the wearer to see. The rectangular mouth is also typical of this type of mask.
These masks are decorated with incised grids that are often painted with dark and light pigments to create a checkerboard effect. This ‘Panya Ngombe’ mask would be hung above the door or window of a chief’s dwelling. The Pende carve several different types of masks that they use to communicate with the spirits during rituals.
Goma masks are easily identified by their elongated cylindrical forms, domed heads, large concave eye sockets with protruding eyes and their decoration with geometric abstract patterns. Mostly used for dancing.
Dan masks have a typically high forehead, pouting mouth and pointed chin. Dan masks are carved in wood and stained with a brown dye. Dan masks are sacred objects. Dan masks are used for protection and as a channel for communication with the spirit world. The Dan also carry small 'passport masks' for personal protection when they are living away from home.
These masks are usually carved from wood and colored with red "tukula" powder, a dye made from the camwood tree. The weeds and brush at the back of the head represent the hairstyle. These masks are usually worn during tribal rituals and ceremonies. The raised carved ears make it animal like while the teeth carvings make it human like.
Teke masks are worn by members of the Kiduma - a secret society that takes charge of social celebrations and rituals. The mask is held in place with a bite bar at the back which the wearer holds in his teeth. These masks are usually decorated with geometric symbols and divided by a horizontal stripe. They are colored with clay and paint.
This type of mask was worn by the Oba, probably around his neck, during the the Emobo ceremony. The pendant is said to represent Queen Mother Idia, mother of Oba Esigie who ruled in the sixteenth century. The top of the pendant is decorated with heads representing the Portuguese, symbolizing Benin's alliance with and control over Europeans. The Portuguese continued to appear in Benin art long after they had disappeared from Benin itself.
The Janus mask with costume was worn strictly for dance rituals and celebrations. It represents beauty and boldness. The outfit would be worn by several others as well to perform rituals.
The Cap are noted for their beautifully crafted masks that combine human and animal features. They have elaborate hairstyles which often include horns, elongated faces with a high forehead, arched eyebrows and a low protruding mouth. Cap masks are used in dance rituals to help villagers come to terms with the death of one of their people. The masks represent the Yu spirits who restore the social balance after a bereavement. These masks are considered very powerful and dangerous objects. They must be kept out of sight of women for fear of the effects that the supernatural powers of the Yu spirits may have on them.
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