African Culture Masks

Like Picasso, many prominent artists from the 20th century drew inspiration from the unique designs they found in African masks. The intrigue these African masks awakened in those artists made them collect them and utilize the artistry to craft their art styles.

This fascination with African art landed several of these masks in Museums all over the world today. The Artists who designed those masterpieces had other intentions for them. Below are three major functions of the African masks.


A little boy wearing a hat

Most African societies believe that their masks possessed powers to create a bridge between the world of the dead and the living. These masks are used in burial ceremonies to create serenity between the world of the living and the dead while the deceased goes back home unhitched. The one who wears the mask is believed to translate to a supernatural realm when he dons the mask.


A hand holding a little girl looking at the camera

It is common in today’s culture for society to honor a great personality when they pass away. This is done in various ways like lifetime achievement awards, annual ceremonies dedicated to them, and many others. Great personalities like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Mother Theresa have days in honour of their great deeds and sacrifices. Some even have statues erected in their honour. In the Ancient African societies, individuals who performed incredible feats and sacrifices are sometimes immortalized with masks that looked like them. An example of this is the infamous mask of Queen Idia of Benin City, Nigeria.


Before colonialism became a thing in Africa and introduced Africans to Christianity and its religious beliefs, most Africans were not Christians. Africans practised the African Traditional Religion, where they worshipped and served an African god or goddess. Most of the gods were mythical creatures believed to have been responsible for people’s existence and protection. Ancient Africans visited shrines at intervals to offer sacrifices to their Gods. Masks and graven images were used to represent the deities. The masks were sacred and believed to hold great power. Africans revered the masks and saw the masks as their gods in actuality. Although Christianity has become a predominant religion in today’s Africa, some Africans still serve their ancient gods. African culture masks still represent these ancient gods.


African culture masks were an essential part of Ancient African society; it was sacred and virtually needed in every significant event in the African society. Most of these masks are not as revered as they used to; they are found in museums for leisure and educational purposes. However, they were imperative in the lifestyle and development of ancient African societies, and some African cultures still utilize them.

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