Why are the masks made?• Ritual and ceremonial masks are anessential feature of the traditionalculture and art of the peoples ofSubsaharan and West Africa. While thespecific implications associated toritual masks widely vary in differentcultures, some traits are common tomost African cultures: e.g., masksusually have a spiritual and religiousmeaning and they are used in ritualdances and social and religiousevents, and a special status isattributed to the artists that createmasks and to those that wear them in
• The African Tribal Artist• The African tribal artists training, which may last many years,involves the knowledge of traditional carving techniques andhow these apply to the social and religious objects he creates.His craft can be learned as an apprentice in the workshop of amaster carver, or sometimes these skills are passed downfrom father to son through many generations of his family.• The Role of the African Tribal Artist• The artist holds a respected position in African tribal society. Itis his job to provide the various masks and sculptures for usein ritual ceremonies. His work is valued for its spiritual, ratherthan its aesthetic qualities. Art without a spiritual dimension,in the broadest sense of the term, never transcends the levelof mere craftsmanship and is unable to communicate thoseelevated emotions that are born from a deeper mysticalinspiration.
• At the dawn of the 20th century,European artists were looking fornew forms of expression thatchallenged, rather than simplyillustrated, their rapidly changingworld of ideas and technology. Thetraditional techniques of realismand perspective seemedoverworked and predictable. Theirsolution was to draw on images