General information about masks for sale.
Scroll to the bottom of the page to see our tribal masks for sale. African tribal masks can be found within a wide range of cultures within sub-Saharan Africa. Most are used for ritual and ceremony although many are carved for the export and tourist trade. Most tribal art face masks represent either ancestors, spirits, animals or a combination of these themes. The typical wooden carved mask is used as part of traditonal ceremonial ritual and dance. Beautifully carved African wooden masks are also used for social events. Some are used to represent ancestors, spirits and as means of passing on folklore, cultural values and taboos. Mask dance ceremonies and the "secret societies" associated with initiation ceremonies are less common in modern day African culture. We aim to avoid tourist souvenirs often passed off as authentic Tribal art. Please note that not all of our tribal art is antique. If we know an item to be of more recent production we will list it as a copy or reproduction.
Interesting facts about masks
Most are hand crafted from wood, but not all. Bronze, clay, cloth and bone or horn can also be used. Decorations vary; shells, feathers, metal plate, brass pins and beads all all use to add character. Traditionally the carver for a village would have been a high status individual. Skills are passed from one generation to the next. The novice carver would be passed on skills from the master carver. Not only how to carve also about spiritual significance and style. Once carved and painted the motifs, decorations and deeper mask information would be key to learning the craft. These fascinating ethnographic items mostly represent complex abstract concepts. Much of which is lost when African art is relocated to a collection or placed on an "African wall" in a home in the West.
A rich tradition
An African masked dancer inhabits the spirit of the item worn. It’s a kind of “channelling” to communicate traditions, teachings or sometimes simple entertainment to the audience. Traditions and style of art in Africa are as diverse as the people of this great continent. Typically masks are used for initiation ceremonies, to promote good crops or hunting, for war or to commemorate the dead. Types of mask fall into three typical categories. Mask faces- worn in front to cover the face, helmet masks and crest masks which rest on top of the masker's head. Masks are revered and often considered to be beings in their own right. They are used in African societies to this day although to a much lesser degree than in the past. Colonialism, modern lifestyles and a growing loss of tribal identity mean that this tradition is dwindling. The skills of making exceptional art using carved mask making skills are passed from father to son.We select our African art for their aesthetic qualities and suggest that you buy items that are to your liking. Be careful about claims of age or antique stautus when buying masks as these can be hard to verify. See our range of African masks for sale below. Happy shopping!
Authentic Bamileke beaded water buffalo mask
Baule monkey mask from Cote D'Ivoire
Nigerian Bronze Festac Mask
Cameroon grasslands helmet mask
Contemporary beaded cow mask form the Bamileke people of ...
Striking Dan mask from Liberian border with the Ivory Coast
Fang helmet mask from Gabon
Ibo Wooden Face mask from Nigeria with Leopard on top of ...
Ivorian Dan mask from West Africa