African Art

African art typically relates to the peoples living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Wooden masks, which might either be human or animal or of mythical creatures, are one of the most commonly found forms of art in western Africa. In their original contexts, ceremonial masks were used for celebrations, initiations, crop harvesting, and war preparation. The masks were worn by a chosen or initiated dancer. During the mask ceremony the dancer goes into deep trance, and during this state of mind he communicates” with his ancestors. The masks can be worn in three different ways: vertically covering the face: as helmets, encasing the entire head, and as crest, resting upon the head, which was commonly covered by material as part of the disguise. African masks often represent a spirit and it is strongly believed that the spirit of the ancestors possesses the wearer. Most African masks are made with wood, and can be decorated with: Ivory, animal hair, plant fibers, pigments, shells, stones, and semi-precious gems also are included in the masks. Statues, usually of wood or ivory, are often inlaid with cowrie shells, metal studs and nails. Decorative clothing is also commonplace and comprises another large part of African art.