Feminine Masks and Sculptures
African Beauty Masks and Sculptures
The Ahoofe of Ghana, for example, carve beauty masks, as it is believed among the tribe that their women are the most beautiful in all of West Africa. Using brass or other metal plates to shield parts of the face from sand and windstorms, the mask serves as a preservation of feminine beauty of their tribe. Many other tribes of West Africa, including the Wolof of Senegal, depict women in nude or bare-chested forms. Rather than being seen as derogatory, however, these traditional carvings are thought to be a testament to the beauty of the female form, a source of women’s power and strength in many cultures.
African Couple Masks and Sculptures
The Fulani people of West Africa are also known for depictions of couples. Pairs of masks, rather than single-standing warrior masks are quite common even today. Themes of strength, love and devotion often motivate carvers to craft sets of two married figures. Often, the two masks or sculptures will look almost identical, and male and female can only be identified by modest anatomical differences. Such similarity tends to place the emphasis equally on both man and woman within the relationship.
African Mother Masks and Family Sculptures
Perhaps more notable in sculpture than in African masks are depictions of females in their most important role as mother. Tribes from Senegal to Gabon, and even throughout East Africa are known for carving abstract family sculptures. Often, however, the child or children are only depicted with their mother, showing the strength and importance of a mother’s bond with her young ones. In matrilineal societies such as the Ashantis of Ghana, for example, mother masks, busts and sculptures comprise a significant theme often portrayed in their arts and crafts.
African Royalty Masks and Sculptures
Tribes known for having kings and queens as rulers, such as the Ashanti tribe of Ghana, often sculpted masks and figures representing queens. Embellished with intricate beadwork, cowrie shells, and other luxurious charms, masks representing queens and other female leaders are some of the most colorful and detailed of African masks and sculptures.
Abstract African Masks
Among many tribes of West Africa, abstract carvings are common. Whether initially meant to represent men or women, these “android” masks take on neither feminine nor masculine qualities, suggesting an overarching theme of humanity over gender.
African Fertility Masks and Sculptures
A shared principal behind the carving of many African masks and sculptures, especially depictions of females, is the idea of fertility. One such icon of Ashanti culture lies within the popular fertility dolls of Ghana. Although most are seen in pairs, many versions of the fertility doll are only female representations and take various forms from candles to masks. Additionally, East African cultures such as the Makonde of Tanzania carve bustlines and pregnant bodices to be worn by women wishing to become more fertile.
Female Inspired African Masks and Sculpture: