African masks in the home: devil or delight?!


Mukenga mask from the Congo - for a tribal leader. Symbolic of elephant trunk, supreme leadership

African masks have been a fascination of mine for years. Growing up in Africa, they’re common place although there are many people who simply won’t have them in their homes for fear of something sinister. I must confess, I use to be one of those! Give them their due, the makers of these magnificent masks have the skill and talent to turn a piece of wood into a fearsome, intimidating presence…but what’s it actually all about – what’s behind the mask?

What do they symbolise?

Steeped in spiritual symbolism, African masks come in all shapes, forms and sizes. They are generally worn in three different ways – vertically, covering the face; as a helmet, encasing the entire head or as a headdress on top of the head. Predominantly used in ritual ceremonies – depicting the spirits of ancestors, mythical beings – good and evil – the dead and animal spirits – the wearer will dance in a deep, trans-like state, calling on the ancestors through a wise man or translator, who relays his ‘grunting utterances’ as messages to the tribe.

Is there a place for them in the home?

African masks have since come a long way – from tribal ceremonies, to exquisite collectible must haves, adorning the walls of many interiors around the world – from homes, to hotels and restaurants. I guess it boils down to personal choice. Hand carved from wood and interestingly enough, not based on any template but instead on the creativity and imagination of the craftsman, they are truly magnificent collectors items and look stunning against a feature wall (below), as part of an African themed interior.

If masks are your thing yet your home is a Feng Shui haven, I’d say choose your pieces wisely or take advice from a Feng Shui expert, so as not to upset the equilibrium. For me personally, I’ve come across a few masks where I’ve felt a cutting negative energy from those more intimidating and fierce in appearance, which I’ve avoided!

African masks against a wall as a feature in a bedroom

What are your thoughts?

It would be interesting to gain another perspective, so do share your thoughts and/or experiences of African masks in the home by way of comment or through our snap poll below!

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~ by girlfromafrica on January 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “African masks in the home: devil or delight?!”

  1. Seeking to understand the difference between religion and spirituality…. u need to look 1st within your OWN heart. Thus the keyword here is PERSONAL. Only if you buy or rather obtain it for any ritual, be it good or bad, give it a 2nd thought.

    Today however most of these masks for sale is created as collectables with exceptional care and creativity to decorate your home in a unique way.

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