Sub-categories of african mask

Hello everyone. So great to see you guys back on the blog. You will definitely get what you came back for. As I mentioned in the previous blog, today we are going to discuss about the types of African masks and there importance.

Mainly there are sixteen sub-categories of tribal African masks.

Baule mask, Biombo mask, Bwa mask, Dan mask, Goma mask, Kota mask, Kwele mask, Ligbi mask, Lulua mask, Lwalwa mask, Pende mask, Punu mask, Senufo mask, teke mask, Woyo mask and Yohure mask.untitled

All of them are different from each other and has unique symbolism.

We are going to discuss four of the masks mentioned above. Let’s get started.


Baule Mask



This type of African mask is a Baule mask which is also known as a Goli mask. It is used in tribal dances during harvest festivals, in processions to honour distinguished visitors and at the funerals of important figures.
The circular face represents the life-giving force of the sun and the horns symbolize the great power of the buffalo. The mask is made of wood with two holes cut into the eyes to enable the wearer to see. The rectangular mouth is also typical of this type of mask.

The Baule are farmers who populate the eastern side of the Ivory Coast. They are part of the Akan people, one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa, who dwell in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast.



Biombo Mask

Biombo masks are usually carved from wood and colored with red “tukula” powder, a dye made from the camwood tree.

The eyes are a typical coffee bean shape. A triangular checkerboard design is used to decorate the eyebrows and the planes of the face.

The three forms at the back of the head represent the Biombo hairstyle. Feathers are often attached to the top of Biombo masks.

Biombo masks are usually worn during tribal rituals and ceremonies.

The Biombo live south of the inter-section of the Lulua and Kasai rivers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Bwa Mask


Bwa masks are believed to possess special powers which are controlled by those who wear them.

These masks are plank shaped with a circular face at one end and a crescent moon at the other.

Their wearer looks through a hole in the mouth. The eyes are based on an owl and the hooked nose comes from the hornbill. Both these birds are thought to possess magical powers.

The plank section is decorated with geometric patterns which are an essential design element in many African masks and carvings. Geometric pattern creates an external rhythm which echoes the internal spiritual energy of the artwork. It can also be used as a coded language where the design communicates secret knowledge to those in the know.

The designs on this Bwa Mask, which is used to celebrate boys’ initiation into adulthood, represent information about the myths and morality that the boys must learn before they can be accepted into adult society.

The Bwa are a farming community who come from Mali and Burkina Faso. Masks are only made by those who live in the southern parts of their territory.



Dan Mask


Dan masks have a typically high forehead, pouting mouth and pointed chin. They may also have scarification marks like the line that splits the forehead and nose in our example above. Dan masks are carved in wood and stained with a brown dye.

Dan masks are sacred objects. Dan masks are used for protection and as a channel for communication with the spirit world. The Dan also carry small ‘passport masks’ for personal protection when they are living away from home.

The Dan believe that their world is split into two domains: the human domain which is represented by the village and its people, and the spiritual domain which is represented by the forest and its spirits. When a dancer wears a Dan mask he becomes the spirit of that mask. A masked dancer will speak in the language of the spirits and his words are interpreted by a wise man.

Some dancers perform masked rituals on stilts. There are many different Dan masks, each of which has a distinct use during rituals or festivals. Some masks play an important part in tribal rites while others are simply for entertainment.

Dan masks are guarded by the go master, the head of the secret society of the leopard who are responsible for the initiation rites of young men into adulthood.

The Dan are hunters and farmers whose territory stretches from the western side of the Ivory Coast into Liberia.


These are some of the basic African mask. A lot of information has already been discussed. Wait for the next blog to know what we do with it. Stay tuned.



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