West African tribal masks show ancestors, spiritual beings and invisible powers. At tribal ceremonies, people express moral and social and religious values that are important to the community, and African tribal masks symbolically and artistically reflect these values.
The specific associations of tribal African masks vary widely from tribe to tribe, but it is universal that the artist making the masks is highly respected as the person wearing the mask during ceremonies. There are various popular exhibitions in New York where you can explore more regarding art of west africa.
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Because of this, only certain people were allowed to wear masks, mostly men. These people were heads or kings, tribal elders, or perhaps those of high social status.
Masking is widespread among the Maasai people of Kenya, resulting in amazing works of art. The art of making masks is passed down from father to son. Along with the teaching of the process of building masks, the teaching of symbolic meaning is contained in each component of the mask.
West African mask dances cover most events and ceremonies such as initiation, marriage, birth and death ceremonies. It is believed that when wearing a ritual mask, the individual loses his personal identity and thus becomes the spirit that the mask represents.
This individual transformation is supported by additional costumes, certain dance moves, and certain music. What then happens with this transformation is the individual into an environment that enables communication between community members and the spirit represented by the mask wearer.