African Mask

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Social Studies, Art, Mediums

Grade 1- 3


Students create masks that represent African culture.


Introduce to students the following background information about African art and the use of masks:
African art extends from ancient times to the present day. The oldest works of art are rock painting and engraving that dates to 6000 B.C. African art reflects the cultural diversity of the continent's ethnic groups and gives expression to the rich histories, philosophies, religions, and societies of the people. Among the traditional types of African art are sculpture, furniture, pottery, textiles, and jewelry.
Each individual ethnic group has its own traditions regarding both the subject and form of representation. Some cultures value naturalistic representations while others favor abstraction. Materials used in art are determined by their availability in each region and include wood, fiber, metal, ivory, clay, earth, and stone.
The African people often use masks as part of their celebrations. The masks are made from a variety of materials and range from simple designs to ornate wood carvings. The subject may be an animal or a mythical being. Many people in other countries collect these masks as works of art.
Masks are a very important part of African culture. Each mask has its own purpose. Some are worn as ornaments while others are used in religious ceremonies. Dancers wear them to communicate with spirits. The spirits express themselves through the masks. African masks are made of many different kinds of materials. They are decorated with simple, strong, and powerful shapes and designs. Doctors wear the masks to concentrate the healing powers of nature.
Before students begin creating their masks, reproduce the Make an African Mask patterns onto white construction paper.
Have students cut out the top and bottom patterns of the mask. They should cut the slits for the forehead, chin, and cheeks.
Have students overlap the sides of each slit and staple or glue them back together to create a three-dimensional effect.
Students can then cut out geometric shapes to create the facial features and other designs for the mask. The eyes, nose, and mouth should be exaggerated to show their importance.
If desired, use raffia fibers or shredded cornhusks for hair.


  • brown, gray, black, or beige construction paper (for decorating mask)
  • two 8 inch x 11 inch (20 cm x 28 cm) sheets of white construction paper per student (for mask pattern)
  • pencils
  • scissors
  • glue or stapler
  • Make an African Mask patterns
  • optional: raffia or shredded husks

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