• Bush Buffalo Mask, early-mid 1900's. Africa, Western Sudan, possibly Bwa. Wood, fibers; 27-7/16 in. Gift of Katherine C. White 1969.2

African Masks

Grade Level: 
Student Level: 

Learn why African artists use animals as points of reference in mask making and how masks are used in ceremonies. Students compare the differences and similarities between African and American masks in terms of materials, roles in life, and seasonal cycles. On-camera interactivity includes completing "passports" using art work stickers provided in the Teacher Information Packet and notes students take during the videoconference.

Program Format: 
  • Discuss lifestyle of West Africans 100 years ago.
  • Discuss why we wear masks today.
  • Introduce works from Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria.
  • View brief video of village festival with mask made by the Bwa people.
  • Passport activity and Q&A throughout lesson.
  • Students will explore the imagery and symbolism of African masks.
  • Students will learn why African artists use animals in some of their masks and how those masks are used in African ceremonies.
  • Students will learn how African masks are similar to and different from contemporary American masks.
  • Students will explore the many roles that masks play in African culture.