Tuesday, February 7, 2012

African Masks

     For the rest of this month, we are getting ready for Black History Month coming up in February.  I want some dramatic artwork to display around the building because we are hosting an evening in February to celebrate African American History.  The students will be performing plays, skits, songs, poems, and much more.
     The 4th graders today worked on these gorgeous African masks.  We discussed the purposes of masks, African art, and the meaning behind some of the symbols/designs commonly used in African art.  I always make the point that African art is always meaningful to the artist, has some symbolic meaning behind the shapes & colors, and is almost always useful/functional.  With these key features in mind, students can understand African culture a little deeper.
     We began by watching this short slide show I found on YouTube:

     Next, I gave the students this handout to base their mask design from:

    I demonstrated how to fold the paper in  half, draw half of the mask shape on the folded side, and cut it out.  Next, students added graphic designs to the mask using ideas from the above examples.  Lastly, we used shades of brown, black, & white tempera paint into the shapes.  We also added raffia & yarn around the masks for that touch of texture.
     Here are a few examples:


  1. Having lived and taught in two countries in Africa (Mali and Tunisia), I can attest that every country in Africa is different. Within Mali, for example, the type of masks varied greatly by tribe or ethnic group. The masks were just one part of a costume worn for specific ceremonies. Rather than lumping all of Africa into an activity, I would recommend focusing on those from a specific country or ethnic group. My website www.melissaenderle.com has some images and information about the Dogon, Bambara, and Senufo groups

  2. I'm about to start my own African unit with my 1st graders - thanks for sharing these great images!

  3. Wow! Your students have some very strong mask designs. I'm going to pin.

    Rina at k6art.com

  4. Love how they turned out! The color palette is beautiful

  5. Thank you for your great pictures and advice on focusing on specific areas of Africa as well!