Have students follow along with Maude Alexander to create their own ancestor masks. Before they begin, discuss what idea and/or ancestor they want to represent in their mask.
Have students research African masks and how they have been used and continue to be used in the cultures of various African regions.
Literature: Read stories from different regions of Africa. Discuss how storytelling, along with masks and costumes, preserve a society’s values, morals, religion, and traditional and historical heritage.
Science connection: Research the Dogon tribe of Africa. What did they believe about out solar system? Compare and contrast their knowledge with current scientific information about our solar system.
Masks are used in almost every country in the world. This video clip focuses on African masks. In Africa, masks can be traced back beyond Paleolithic times. Masks are objects of art made of various materials including leather, metal, fabric, and various types of wood. Throughout history, masks have been culturally significant for a variety of reasons.
Masks were an important aspect of ancient Egyptian burials. Mummy masks were intended to provide the spirit with a way to recognize the body and give the deceased a face in the after life. As the burial mask of King Tutankhamen illustrates, the Egyptians were capable of sculpting extremely life-like figures.
Masks and carved figures also played an important role in sub-Saharan cultures, although there are no surviving examples as old as Egyptian artifacts because of the use of wood, a medium that decays rapidly in the tropical climate. In this region, visual art traditions are tied closely to music, story telling, and dance for ceremonial purpose. After Europeans “discovered” West African culture, they looked at sacred and ceremonial masks and other carved objects as art objects, but it is important to keep in mind that to the cultures that created them these items belonged to a long tradition of ritual.