African Masks: Spiritual Power and Cultural History Masks have been made and used throughout African history, but they are primar- ily associated with West, Central, and southern Africa. The kinds of masks made in Africa are as diverse as Africa’s many people, but masks can be categorized

into four major types: spirit or religious masks, ancestor masks, portraits of leaders and rulers, and symbols of power. Burkina Faso, located in West Africa, is one of the African nations best known for its masks. The masks created by the Bwa and Nuna people in Burkina Faso illustrate nature spirits, includ- ing buffalo, hawk, crocodile, and flying spirits. The masks, made from wood and natural fiber, are highly stylized and patterned. Each year, thousands of people visit Dédougou in Burkina Faso to watch Festima, a festival that keeps traditional mask culture alive. Festima features local masked dancers and others from Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Senegal, and Mali. Other mask traditions cele- brate beauty. The Punu people in Gabon create white-faced feminine masks with delicate features that illustrate the spirit

A man wears a traditional Burkina Faso mask.



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