The variety of African tribal masks used is enormous.
Tribal African masks are used
for various different reasons
, depending on cultural and religious beliefs, the part of Africa they come from and the materials available to create them.
The Bwa and Nuna tribes of Burkina Faso use tribal African masks to stop evil by calling on the spirits for help and guidance.
In Mali the Dogon people have many religions that use animal masks. Their beliefs are in three main cultural societies. The society of the dead called the Awa, the society of the spirits called Bini and the Lebe which is the society of nature and the earth. Between these three societies a total of seventy-eight tribal masks are used.
With the Bamana people of Mali, their culture is rich in agricultural tradition and they believe that the antelope called Chiwara has taught man the secrets of agriculture. Therefore they use a variety of antelope masks in their rituals.
The Punu tribe of Gabon use tribal African masks that show their interpretation of a woman's beauty. Such masks usually have high eyebrows, oval shaped eyes and a small chin. They also have a white face which represents the purity and beauty of the spirit world. These masks are only worn by men.
In Ivory Coast, the Senufo tribe use masks in a ritual that gives the spirit of a dead person
an easy path from this life to the afterworld
. When this particular ritual is being performed, women are not allowed to be present because they believe that the women's ability to give life might prevent the dead person's spirit from crossing over.
Most masks are now being sold to tourists from around the world. They normally show great craftsmanship but do not have the spiritual essence of the traditional masks.