African Masks 

The Art of Masquerade


Guere Mask, Dan People, Liberia

Throughout history, performance has served an essential role in many African communities. The art of masquerade can be used to communicate with spiritual beings, ancestors, heal those that are afflicted, ensure a good harvest as well as fulfill other essential needs.  African masquerade reinforces societal ideologies and provides a means to maintain social order.  This virtual exhibition will focus on the complexity of African masquerades by highlighting a few examples of masks worn by performers. Viewers should be aware that the masks, as they are represented here as static images, are not true to form. African masquerades are performative, with dynamic costumes that cover the bodies of the performers. Additional photographs will provide the context in which the mask should be viewed, along with a detailed description of the purpose and symbolism to aid viewers in appreciating this rich cultural history of African masquerade.