African Mask History
African masks are treated as objects of art in museums of the Western world and sought after by art collectors. These imposing (and sometimes scary) masks are one of the most enduring aspects of African culture – and their role on the continent is far more functional than artistic.
The African people have been carving and wearing masks since the dawn of records, at mind-boggling 11 000 years ago. Looking at more famous history, we need only consider King Tutankhamun's gold funeral mask to see that masks are shrouded in both function and mystery.
These facepieces take on different forms, depending on the culture and, of course, region. Some only cover the face, while others complete cover the head or torse. Others still include headdresses, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny to gigantic. Oftentimes animals are depicted in the carvings, other times you will see the writhing shapes of men and men that depict their standards of ideal beauty.
In terms of religion and spirituality, masks also form part of ceremonial costumes to communicate with the spirit world. It is believed that the spirits of the ancestors will take up residence in the masks, or take control of the mask wearer during these rituals! – But not to worry. Our beautiful collection of masks here at Dilwana will do no such thing – they are for aesthetic purposes only.