What is the significance of the African Tribal Mask? Before I get into that topic, I feel compelled to briefly inform you of their influence on Western Art. Around the turn of the 20th-century, painters such as Picasso and Derain copied the designs of many of the masks right into their paintings. The abstract creations on the masks were used as a paradigm for many of their works; Fauvism and Cubism could not have existed had it not been for the ornate and complex designs of these masks as well as the grand scale of influence that they provided on the two masters mentioned. It was a refreshing transfiguration from the mundane approach of Western Art itself, and it also heightened and appreciated the popularity and skill that it takes to create them.
African Tribal Masks serve many functions. They can represent the image of one’s ancient ancestors or they can be a part of a ceremonial costume for a special activity. Religious and social events cannot exist without them. The forces of good and evil within a community can also be controlled the rituals that involve the mask. There is also a mystical bond with nature and animals attached to them. For many tribes in Africa, nature and animals hold symbolic structure within the community and many of the masks are representatives of that force in their lives. This one from the Angola region is just one special example of the virtuosity and themes that the masks have come to represent.