African masks by tribe
The African mask plays a constant sacred role in the life of the individual from early childhood until burial. The mask is an instrument; without it, one cannot understand his African culture. For African tribes, the power of the African mask lies in its creation. Masks are created for a reason such as to insure fertile crops and asking for the rain, the more important the reason to a society, the more powerful the mask.
Before the sculpting start, the artisan purifies himself and performs a prayer, consulting the divine forces and the spirits of his ancestor's for guidance. The divine force will be transferred to the mask during the sculpting process. A sculpture of African masks is not merely carving an object; he is perpetuating the beliefs of his people. In most cases the mask cannot be seen by anyone until the mask is completely finished. African Mask makers have shown great resourcefulness in selecting and combining available materials. Among the substances utilized are woods, metals, shells, fibers, ivory, clay, horn, stone, feathers, leather, furs, paper, cloth, and corn husks. Once a mask is complete is treated with vegetable oil to preserve the wood.
Elaborate and complex beliefs surround masks and their use in rituals, and the wood used in certain African masks, is so powerful that they may be touch by a chosen few, those that wear the mask and tribal chief and spiritual healers. One culture may forbid the use of a certain tree because the wood used is thought to process harmful qualities, which can become part of anything made from it. Other woods however are highly praised and though to have their own inherent power.
Masks in Africa have an original setting and atmosphere. Men and or women that wear masks are fully dressed in traditional tribal attire or in accordance with the theme or significance of the traditional ceremony. Masks of supernatural beings have played a significant ceremonial role and it is presumed that the spirit power of the created image usually is strongly felt by the artist.
In some cultures it is believed that because of the close association between the mask maker and the spirit of the African mask, the artist absorbs some of its magic power. In fact, the creators of masks are even potentially capable of using the object's supernatural powers to cause harm to others. African Masks representing potentially harmful spirits were often used to keep a required balance of power or a traditional relationship of inherited positions within a culture.
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