Masks are a part of a whole spectacular performance or rather an event.
A masquerader carrying or wearing a mask is dressed in colourful and dramatic
costume. Usually not only the face or head but also the whole body is covered
in an elaborate costume made of leaves, raffia or clothes, often decorated with
shells, beads and amulets. The dressing itself is also a ritual performed by
the dancer with a little help from his assistant. Although the assistant is usually
a boy after initiation, he can’t touch the mask or the costume as it would
“steal” the life out of him. The experienced dancer, however, has
enough power to protect himself from the mask’s spirit. He conveys his
message to the rhythm of pounding drums and tunes of pulsating music and is
often greeted by the audience with songs and chanting.
Africa is changing from a tribal society to a modern one, so
it is not hard to anticipate that traditional art will become,
sooner rather than later, a thing of the past. Works of African tribal art
become more scarce with every passing year.