Saturday, December 4, 2010

MS: African Masks






Middle school students were learning about Africa in their class so I thought it would be perfect to introduce them to the art of African masks. I felt very inadequate to teach them such a diverse and rich legacy because of how much it's been misunderstood by Western standards in the past, not to mention the variations of aesthetic criteria between each culture in Africa. The most important points that I tried to explain was that African art is intimately connected with religion and spiritual world. Traditionally, art objects, such as sculptures and masks, are used to celebrate and assist in rites of passage or other important events through ceremonies and performances. Whoever wears the mask transcends their identity and is transformed into powerful medium for spiritual communication. Traditional African art is both functional and beautiful. The assignment was for students to create a mask that will celebrate or assist in
a significant event/period in their life. It didn't necessarily have to be personal, but must serve a function. Some students used symbolic animals, like the buffalo, which stands for strength, while others made theirs about important values that they wanted assistance with. Masks were made out of a cardboard base with balls of newspaper that were coated with paper mache and tempera paint. The project was only a tiny glimpse into African masks, but I hope that students will remember the powerful meaning behind them.

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