African Art, Home Decor and Gifts from Nontando – Profile on Masks

of Art” if often an applicable description for the West African Masks you will find at Nontando. For the creator of our masks, they consider them as a ritual instrument or cult object for his particular culture.

Every mask you find here plays an integral role in the culture of that particular group of people. The masks have a traditional use; it has an origin and a fundamental significance. A new identity is created with the creation and wearing of an African mask. Its goal is to a reaction; hence many of the masks from Africa can be of an exaggerated expression.

African Masks are made to be used. Used primarily for a ritual, which may include rituals of myth, rituals for increase, agricultural festivities, funerals or burials, ancestor cults, initiations and royal and family ceremonies.

Masks can take on a number of forms and shapes. The most common are face masks, helmet masks, headdresses and crowns. For each respective form and shape, the size can vary.

Materials used can also vary though wood is most often used. Depending on the origin of the mask, you may find a combination of materials used which may include brass, copper, fibers, raffia, and cowry shells. These additional materials are often used to increase the efficiency and power of the mask.

Many of the carvers work initially under the guidance of a master carver and are often selected by the peoples of his tribe. Carvers are regarded as artisans that possess special gifts and talents. The most common tool used is an adze though carvers do also use a chisel, knifes and an axe. When the master carver dies, his best pupils often inherit his tools, which for some, was also a means of transferring the skills of the master to his pupils.

Masks can take on different characteristics including naturalistic features, human features, frightening expressions, abstract features, animal features and superstructures.

Tribal styles vary by country by tribe. Nontando attempts each year, on our annual buying trip to the African continent, to showcase a diverse selection of these styles, which primarily originate from the likes of Mali, Liberia, Cameroon, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Congo, and also Tanzania and Zambia.

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