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The Meanings Behind Our African Masks
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The Meanings Behind Our African Masks

Traditional masks have been incorporated within African ceremonies and cultural celebrations for thousands of years. Each mask often has a unique meaning and purpose within these ceremonies with deep cultural significance. Today, these artefacts are often used as a stylistic counterpoint to contemporary design, adding an artisanal element to modern designs. We love including traditional masks in our interior decor to create a unique talking point and feature to a room. We think our collection of African masks are provocative, stylish, and sure to create a lively topic of conversation within your home. So join us as we take you through the fascinating history and meaning behind some of our stunning African masks.


Ghanaian Hand Carved Sun Mask

Our sun masks are undoubtedly one of our most popular products to date. These bold, geometric masks are danced during the farming season by the Bwa people of Burkina Fasso. The Bwa is an African society with an approximate population of over 300,000 people. The Bwa people live in a number of individualized communities with no central government. They are well known for their unique scarification and, of course, masks. These sun masks represent that the sun, along with the rain and earth will ensure a healthy harvest. For the Bwa people, mask performances generally take place in the dry season between February and May. Our sun masks are available in a range of colours, but the monochromatic black and white design is our most popular and is the most traditional to the Bwa people's style. 


Ghanaian Hand Carved Comb Mask

Afe, (meaning "comb"), as its called in Akan or twi, simply signifies beauty. Originating from the Ashanti region of Ghana, the Akan Comb Mask displays the face of a person, highlighted with embossed features and textures that embody the Baule sculpture style of the Akan people. The image of the comb represents personal beauty, refinement, and a desire to please. These beautiful masks are made for us by a small Ghanaian craft group, helping to empower artisans in Ghana through fair-trade crafts. The contrasting blue and red used creates a striking design, highlighting the notions of beauty that these masks traditionally represent. Colour is very important and symbolic in Ghanaian culture. Blue, especially indigo, is related to love and womanly tenderness and calls to mind early dawn and the crescent moon. 


Ghanaian Hand Carved Crocodile Mask 

The crocodile has long been associated with African mythology. They are historically worn by dancers during ceremonies in an effort to manifest wilderness spirits. The religion associated with wooden masks is focused on the spirit Lanle, whose power is manifested through the wooden masks. The presence of the mask plays a role in socialising, mediating, and protecting members of the community. Crocodiles are also seen as a symbol of adaptability, cleverness, from the proverb “The crocodile lives in water yet it breathes air.” Ghanaians also believe the crocodile is a protector spirit. Tribal stories passed by word of mouth for generations say that in ancient times the crocodile carried the king's daughter safely across the river to protect her from an invading army. Our crocodile masks come in a range of colours and will look super snappy in a child's bedroom, keeping a watchful eye. 


Ghanaian Hand Carved Painted Lady Mask

A common subject of African masks is the Painted Lady, usually showcasing characteristics of the culture's ideal of feminine beauty. It celebrates vision and age, hence its refined features. Each mask will look different in different regions depending on the people's ideals of feminine beauty. Various features will also have different meanings. For example, masks that have their eyes half closed, symbolise a peaceful attitude, self-control, and patience. In many cases, wearing masks that represent feminine beauty is strictly reserved to men. One of the most well-known representations of a similar mask is the Idia mask of Benin. It is believed to have been commissioned by King Esigie of Benin in memory of his mother. To honour his dead mother, the king wore the mask on his hip during special ceremonies. 


We hope you enjoyed learning more about the history and cultural significance behind our Ghanaian masks. We love their eye-catching designs and think the meanings behind each one is simply fascinating. Which mask would you choose to hang in your home? Let us know in the comments! 



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