Did you know...

Ancient Greek actors used masks for special theatrical representations.

Crocodiles, hawks and buffalo are the most frequently carved animal masks.

Masks that are sold in African and American markets are usually replicas. Original masks are passed down from one generation to the next .





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In conjunction with a unit on African History, seventh grade students at Bret Harte Middle School worked on the African Mask Project. The project consisted of two components. The first part of the project was the construction of a papier-mâché mask, emulating an actual African tribal mask. The second phase of the project was a "museum writing" describing the mask.


The students choose a mask to reproduce. The goal is to replicate the mask as closely as possible. Students use papier-machè formed around a base to construct their replica. Features are then added. The features are then papier mached until hard. Next, the mask is painted and varnished. The last step is to add any other elements such as hair, cloth, raffia, and metal to the finished mask.


Museum Piece:

The museum writing consists of two sections. The first section element is a well-researched article on the tribal group were the mask originated. The students must determine which materials were used to produce the mask. These materials must be indigenous to Africa and the region in which the tribe lived. In this section the student will also describe the region in detail geographically.

The last part of the museum writing component, and perhaps the most important, is to describe the ceremony or purpose of the mask. In other words, how did their tribal group use the mask. The research for this is sometimes quite difficult. If the exact purpose of the mask cannot be determined, the student must create appraise for the mask based on what other ceremony masks are used for by the tribe.


Extension Activities Ideas:

expand research and create ethnic group reports
use ethnic artifcacts from Africa to spark ideas for further investigations
research how masks are used in other places
investigate why masking ceremonies are no longer common place in Africa
what and how are other objects used in ceremonies around the world including the United States

Other Resources

Black Africa by Laure Meyer (1992)
Masks of Black Africa by Ladislas Segy (1976)
The Principal Ethnic Groups of African Art by Jacqes Kerchache
The Shape and Belief - African Art by Mary Roberts and Allen F. Roberts
From Afar to Zulu by Jim Haskins and Joann Biondi (1995)
Africa books from Ethnic Arts and Facts
Africa Culture Kits from Ethnic Arts and Facts


This project is based on lessons created by Bret Harte Middle School teachers Jack Sheehan (retired) and Kent Fitzsimmons.

Images were used from various websites listed throughout this website and made possible from Peter Mates (Bret Harte Middle School), Connie Sutton (Bret Harte Middle School), Kent Fitzsimmons (Bret Harte Middle School), Linda Swanson (Oakland Unified School District), and Trena Noval (My eCoach).

This site was designed and is maintained by Leilani Carbonell Pedroni and her former middle school students. Mrs. Carbonell Pedroni is a former teacher (West Athens Elementary, Los Angeles, CA and Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland, CA) and is currently working with Ethnic Arts and Facts - a multicultural resources company (teacher-owned) and as an eCoach for My eCoach, a division of Computer Strategies, LLC (another teacher-owned company)- provider of professional development planning and support to teachers in standards-based project development integrating technology. She recieved her Bachelor's from UCLA and her Master's in Education - Instructional Technologies from San Francisco State University.

For comments and questions please fill out a contact form at www.ethnicartsnfacts.com.


Home | Mask Research | Ethnic Group Research| Mask Making | Museum Piece | For Teachers | Examples

Website Created by Leilani Carbonell © 2002
Content and Student Work Provided by Leilani Carbonell and Kent Fitzsimmons, Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland, CA


African Mask