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Why include traditional African masks in your home décor?

Pierre Rossini Jacques

Why include traditional African masks in your home décor?

Because they are awsome, of course. But more than that, traditional or tribal African masks possess an history that gives your art piece its unique and exclusive value.

The original meaning of traditional African masks

Brooklyn's Museum Exposition of Ancient African MasksTraditional or tribal African masks are born from, well, the name says it, from social or religious traditions in African tribes and populations. Most of the mask-making art is practiced in Sub-Saharian Africa, or the belt of African countries between the Sahara and the Kalahari deserts. Their use is prehistoric and it is believed that the earliest masks were used before the Paleolithic[1]

Tribal African masks, representing mostly human faces, feminine beauty, abstract spiritual representations as well as animals, are closely linked to specific cults. The mask is intended to represent, not the nature of the being depicted, but rather its essence, or the risks or virtues that the beliefs relate to a specific mask. In a ceremony, the bearer of the mask becomes then, the essence it represents. An example is found in the spirits masks of the Dogon people in Mali, the lesser spirits represented by the Baoule masks in Cote d’Ivoire. Masks also often depict feminine faces or attributes, based on the ideals of feminine beauty of a specific tribe, like the Peul woman masks, originating from the Dogon people in Mali.[2]

Tribal African Masks in Occidental Culture

The inspiration of tribal African masks was brought to occidental culture in early 20th century by famous artists Pablo Picasso and Andre Derain, serving as inspiration in both the cubism an fauvism art tendencies. To this date, we have learnt to appreciate the bold patterns and abstract shapes of African masks regardless of their original use as religious, ritual or social instruments. African masks have become, with time, integrated to audacious and eclectic home décor. Whether used as a decorative wall mask or a standalone mask, an African styled mask brings to an interior décor a reconnection with nature and its unadulterated magic.[3]

To this day tribal African masks are widely appreciated in European décor, and are also gaining significant ground in exotic and excusive home décor in North America. Like many other African inspired themes, such as wall art depicting African wilderness, animals, and landscapes, decorative African masks bring vivacious, sometimes tropical and serene earth tones to your décor.

Picasso and African Mask

Where to find tribal African masks for sale?

If you are lucky enough to travel from time to time to Western Africa, finding a mask will be as easy as visiting the next arts and crafts store or market, where masks are produced by bulks. In North America and Europe, specialized "ethnic" stores provide beautiful collections of masks and other African décor as well. Quality and finish may differ, which also reflects in the price tag shown, which can range from tens of dollars to several hundreds.

The difference? Most importantly in the nature of wood used: an African decorative wall mask becomes more valuable when built from solid state ebony, teak or mahogany wood which are precious woods reputed to be more resistant. So whether for your personal wall décor, or to offer an exclusive gift to an ecelectic friend, a decorative tribal African mask will be a unique piece that will nurture many, many interesting talks.

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[1] Source: History of masks: http://www.historyofmasks.net/mask-history/history-of-african-masks/

[2] Source: https://focusongeography.org/publications/articles/mali/index.html

[3] Source: http://www.decoist.com/2014-01-24/african-inspired-interior-design-ideas/

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