The mask in Africa represents, with the statuary, an important element of the plastic creation. Both are at the heart of traditional socio-religious life.
Detached from his costume, his ornaments, his hairstyle, dissociated from the dance accessories that accompany him and of which he is only one element, the mask undoubtedly loses its deep meaning. The mask is also makeup, body paint, fibers, foliage, animal skins, fabrics, hairstyles ... all elements that constitute a whole where it fits, of which it is only part, which also have their meaning, their symbolism.
There are five types of masks:
- The facial mask, which is found among all African peoples who use masks.
- The helmet mask which is hollow and completely covers the head of the man who wears it (or the woman among the Mende of Sierra Leone where, relatively rare in Africa, these masks are worn by women).
- The helmet mask which is worn on the head like a hat.
- The crest mask which is fixed on a base, (made out of wicker for example), and carried on the head. The best-known example of this type of mask is the Bambara tchiwara of Mali.
- The shoulder mask, like the Nimba mask of the Baga of Guinea Conakry.