Third Grade African Mask Crafts

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    • Masks are an important part of the culture of the Dogon people--a tribe from the remote Bandiagara region of central Mali. Dogon masks are generally used in religious ceremonies and often depict a likeness of an ancestor, an ancient being from the spiritual beginnings of Dogon culture. One such example is the kanaga mask, which can be recreated as a craft project. The mask consists of two beams above the head, one just above the head and one much higher. These two beams represent the natural and the supernatural world, and are connected via a vertical colum which directs spirits to the afterlife.


    • The Fang tribe come from Equitorial Guinea, Gabon and Cameroon in central Africa. Covering a vast area, the heartland of the traditional Fang territory follows the banks of the Ogowe River. A craft recreation of a Fang mask must take into account the traditional artistic style of the Fang people. Masks usually depict humanoid faces but with enormous elongation, tapering at the chin so the full mask resembles a shield. When your class is painting the mask, remind the children that the face is usually pale and has a long thin nose, while the eyes of the mask are very small in relation to the other features.


    • The bronze masks of the West African people of Benin can be recreated by creating a cast of your face and filling it with plaster. Use modelling clay to create face casts of your third graders and then line the cast with plaster, this is the easiest way to replicate the detailed bronze face casts of the Benin peoples' masks. Your class can then adorn these masks with crowns, frills around the neck and animal themed adornments. These can be made out of clay, attached to the mask and fired in a kiln before glazing.


    • The Grebo people settled on the Liberian coast in the sixteenth century. At this point the region was home to several warlike tribes and the Grebo were frequently engaged in battle, and they developed fearsome war masks to give their warriors courage and to entreaty help from the gods. These masks can be recreated by making a long base mask with a flat top and a tapered chin. The top of the mask is carved into flame-like hair, while the mouth--low down in the chin--harbors long, savage teeth. Ask your class to make these as scary as possible. The characteristic feature of these masks is the multiple pairs of protruding, tubular eyes which give the mask a nightmarishly uncanny quality.

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