After artist and teacher Maude Alexander shows students examples of African masks, she challenges
them to visualize one of their ancestors and create a mask that will emphasize, through applied
features, that ancestor's major characteristics.
Using a "hands-on" activity, students will understand that African masks were and are more
than aesthetic artifacts: They are functional implements of the many cultures of the African continent.
Students will develop their masks using the symbolism, style, and naturalism used in the masks of
Africa -- exaggerations, animal features, geometric shapes, protrusions, ornaments, and natural
fibers -- to enhance their feelings and expressions.
90 minutes will allow the application of plaster craft to dry enough for painting, adding features,
and gluing on ornaments.
Through mask making, students will combine social studies and art. They will compare masks historically
and culturally all over our world, using the masks of many societies. Learning about masks as spiritual
and ritualistic expressions will encourage them to view art artifacts both culturally and aesthetically.
Have the plaster craft cut into four- or five-inch pieces. Basins of water should be ready, or you can
use squirt bottles to dampen material. You may also want to pre-stuff plastic bags with crushed newspaper
for the masks' armature. Have the four stages of mask making ready as examples:
Students should take turns telling about their ancestors by exhibiting their masks and pointing out
how the features on the masks relate to the characteristics of the people.
Children's Books on African Art and Culture
Allen, William D., Jennings, Jerry E., and Thomas, Benjamin E. Man in Africa. Grand Rapids, MI: The
Fideler Company, 1974.
Aardema, Verna. Who's in Rabbit's House? New York: The Dail Press, 1977.
Dakari, Hru. Joshua's Masai Mask. New York: Lee and Low, 1993.
Davison, Basil. African Kingdoms. New York: Time-Life Books, 1966.
Davrell, Elphinstone. Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968.
Grifalconi, Ann. Fly Away Girl. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992.
Heslewood, Juliet. Introducing Picasso. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
Kreikemeier, Gregory S. Come with Me to Africa. New York: Golden Books, 1993.
McCoy, Brendeema. ABC Africa Coloring Book, Volume II. Atlanta, GA: World Publishing Co., 1990.
McDermott, Gerald. The Magic Tree. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.
-- Zomo the Rabbit. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1992.
Meyer, Lare. Arts and Crafts of Africa. Paris: Pierre Terrail Publishers.
Monti, Franco. African Masks. London, New York: Paul Hamlyn, 1966.
Musgrove, Margaret. Ashanti to Zulu. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1976.
Onyefulu, Ifeoma. A Is for Africa. New York: Cobblehill Books, Dutton.
Paris, Peter J. The Spirituality of African People. Augsburg: Foress, 1996.
Parrinder, Geoffrey. African Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1986.
Rupert, Janet E. The African Mask. New York: Clarion Books, 1994.
Savory, Phillis. Zulu Tales. New York: Hastings Publishing Co., 1961.
Sibbett, Junior. Ancient Egyptian Design Coloring Book. New York: Dover Publications, 1978.
The Smiley Lion Book. New York: Golden Press, 1964.
Terzlan, Alexandra M. The Kid's Multicultural Art Book. Charlotte, VT: Williamson Publishing, 1993.
Warren, Sean and McKinnan, Elizabeth. Small World Celebrations. Everett, WA: Warren Publication House Inc.
Yarbrough, Camille. Cornrows. New York: Coward-McCann, Inc.
Books for Teachers/Advanced Students
Adler, Peter. African Majesty. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1992.
African Studies Handbook for Elementary and Secondary Teachers, 3rd edition. University of Massachusetts,
Center for International Education, School of Education, 1993.
Bascom, William. African Art in Cultural Perspective. New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1973.
Bearden, Romare. History of African American Artists. San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, Inc. 1992.
Benjamin, Tritobia Hayes. "Lois Mailou Jones: The Decorative Pattern of Her Life." American Visions,
June/July 1993, pp. 16-20.
-- The Life and Art of Lois Mailou Jones. San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, 1994.
Bolling, John. Soul Force: The Psycho-Spiritual Development of Black Folks. Mandala Risingi Press, 1988.
Boltin, Lee and Douglas Newton. Masterpieces of Primitive Art. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.
Christoph, Henning, Hans, and Oberlander. Voodoo: Secret Power in Africa. New York: Taschen Publishers.
(Selected photographs and information on the use of masks suggested.)
Contemporary African Art. New York: Studio International and Africana Publishing Corporation, 1968.
Corwin, Judith Hoffman. African Crafts. New York: Franklin Watts Company, 1990.
Douglas, Robert L. Wadsworth Jarrell-The Artist as Revolutionary. San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, 1996.
Fagg, William and John Pemberton. Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.
Frayling, Christopher. The Face of Tutankhamun. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1992.
"Round and Round the World: Life Is a Masquerade." Smithsonian, December 1994, pp. 94-99.
Glubok, Shifley. The Art of Egypt Under the Pharaohs. New York: McMillan Publishing Co., 1980.
Gordon, Rene. African Continent Revealed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.
Kerina, Jane. African Crafts. New York: The Lion Press, 1970.
Koloss, Han-Joachim. Art of Central Africa. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990.
LaDuke, Betty. Africa Through the Eyes of Women Artists. Trenton, NJ: African World Press, 1991.
Matthews, Rupert O. Africa: The Mighty Continent. Gallery Books, 1988.
Mazrui, Ali A. The Africans. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1986.
Perry, Regina A. Free Within Ourselves. San Francisco: Pomegranate Art Books, Inc.
Preston, George Nelson. African Art Masterpieces. New York: Macmillan Co., 1991.
Rosman, Abraham and Paula Rubel. The Tapestry of Culture. New York: Random House, 1989.
Segy, Ladislas. Masks of Black Africa. New York: Dover Publications, 1976.
Steiner, Christopher B. African Art in Transit. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Thompson, Jerry and Susan Vogel. Close Up. New York: The Center for African Art, 1990.
Thompson, Robert F. Flash of the Spirit. New York: Vintage Books, 1984.
Walther, Ingo F., ed. Pablo Picasso, Volumes I and II. Benedikt Taschen Publishers, 1995.
Whiti, John. African Religions and Philosophy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1969.
Willet, Frank. African Art. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993.
Art Deck (playing cards featuring 53 African artifacts). Manufactured by Aristoplay Ltd., Ann Arbor,
Recommended magazines: American Visions, Archaeology, Caribbean, Contemporary Africa, Ebony, Focus on
Africa (Bush House, London), National Geographic, Smithsonian
Museums and Field Trip Destinations
The African American Heritage House Museum
52l W. Ormsby Avenue
Louisville, KY 40203
This museum is dedicated to the documentation, preservation, and perpetuation of the historical,
cultural, educational, and spiritual experiences of African Americans. It includes artifacts from the
African continent and African-American culture from the colonial period through the present.
J.B. Speed Museum
2035 South Third Street
P.O. Box 2600
Louisville, KY 40201
(502) 636-2894; fax (502) 636-2899
In addition to its permanent collection of African art, the Speed Museum offers schools suitcase exhibits
of artifacts and objects, including one on African culture. Contact the Speed for more information.
Thanks to Dr. Robert Douglas, director of Pan African Studies at the University of Louisville, for
supplying this information.