Sunday, August 8, 2010
Now used as visual art pieces and décor items, African masks have a history as exotic as the masks themselves. Each mask is unique in design, shape, and size. Masks each have their own extremely important ceremonial, political, economic and cultural significance. Within these domains, masks connect the wearer or holder to the spiritual world, providing assistance, gain, or power.
Within the cultural domain, the masks are used in initiation ceremonies, in birth rites, worship and funerary ceremonies. When used strictly in the religious realm, the masks protect against evil spirits and play the role of intermediaries between gods and men.
As a last resort, the masks rule in the country’s disputes and times of war. Its decisions are irrevocable, so, within the socio-political domain, the masks provide guidance to policy makers for the management of the community. Finally, they ensure the safety of villagers by organizing police in the villages, and are responsible for providing news to the community, if necessary.
The masks play a role in the economic domain because they ensure the proper manner of sowing seeds and harvesting. They intervene to appease the wrath of the gods during natural disasters, which disrupt agricultural life and threaten the survival of the community.
During celebrations, festivals, and games the masks provide their assistance to men in masked dance, song, and flight. Within the cultural domain, these areas of intervention correspond directly to the important social functions the masks play. Each function, whether in dance or song, requires the appropriate mask. This hierarchy of functions is called the hierarchy of masks.
The traditions of African masks date back centuries, and so today, historians and art collectors alike seek out unique African masks for their studies and collections. They are a great addition to any space, creating a striking conversation piece, with historical and cultural significance.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Part of our african crafts collection, this item is used to identify those guilty of committing a crime within a village. When a crime is committed, the villagers are summoned to the village square to identify the guilty person(s). At the village square, a mouse is placed into a hole inside this item with a piece of yam covering the hole.
After reciting the incantations to a spell, the sorcerer calls each villager to face the court. When a villager faces the tribunal, the cover of the box is lifted to see if the piece of yam remains in place. If so, the villager is acquitted, but if the yam has disappeared (taken by the mouse), the villager is found guilty. Origin: Senufo ethnicity, region North of the Ivory Coast.