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Guinea-Bissau Republic of Guinea Sierra Leone Mali Liberia Ivory Coast Upper Volta Ghana Nigeria Cameroon
Within each of these countries can be found ancient traditions associated with individual tribes displaying common links. The areas associated with some groups cross boundaries. The names of different tribes is too extensive to list at moment.
Congo Zaire Zambia
Similar themes and traditions are found with masks from this area when compared with those of Western countries. In early Fifteenth Century well established Kongo people had close contact with Portuguese and later some converted to Christianity. This has had some influence on type of festivities and masks. The Kongo dominated various tribes in area of these Woyo and Yombe produced notable mask The Ndunga masks of Woyo were larger than life size and had projecting foreheads large cheeks with small eyes, surface of these faces was painted with white or brightly coloured asymmetrical designs.
The Western Pende on Kwilu River in Zaire have two major types of mask. The Minhajl, which represent ancestors and Mbuya which represent various village characters such as fool, prostitute, chief etc. These masks are used in reinforcement of social control. The amusing performances are brightened by triangular faces of masks with bulging eyes, open mouths containing carved teeth painted in a variety of colours. The more powerful Minganji masks are simpler circular forms made from raffia with tubular eyes and no other features. All masks are constructed in secret away from village.
In Makenda circumcision ceremony Mbuya appear from out of bush and dance in village square until dusk. As sky darkens, Minganji, masked dancers, materialise and move around village at a distance, helping to develop sense of awe and unease. In secret circumcision camp initiated youths are allowed to handle mask as they are now fully fledged members of society.
Many other styles are found in these areas.
Tanzania and Mozambique are both home to Mekonde one of best know tribe of mask makers in East Africa. The Mekonde masks come in various styles, southern groups using helmet type. The features of these masks are often realistic and are worn with a cloth covering head of dancer. Scarification is used. The characters represented are familiar to local people:- old man, doctor, young woman and Arab, some animal masks are found.
It must be noted that masks of Africa represent a wealth of forms and designs which have been well collected and catalogued. The total range is by no means represented here. The common connections between masks and different groups are obviously strong.
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