SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2012

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Discovering African Masks To familiarize my third-grade students with different types of African masks, we visited a museum exhibit where students sketched and answered questions on teacher-created selftours. Back at school, more sketches were made from digital images collected from Internet searches. We learned that an African mask is part of a costume, that it is worn for special occasions, that the wearer moves and behaves as the animal or spirit represented, and that the movement (dance) is accompanied by drumming or other music. Each class focused on one type of mask, such as the antelope masks of the Dogon people of Mali, or the elephant masks of the Bamaleke people of Cameroon. Tracing and Cutting For each style of mask, some characteristics were required. Beyond those, creative differences were encouraged. Students drew life-size masks on paper using their sketches for ideas. Drawings were folded in half to better facilitate cutting out symmetrical shapes. The mask shapes were traced onto cardboard, chipboard, or foam board, depending on the style of mask, and then cut out. Each student colored his or her entire mask with oil pastels. Colors and design details were suggested by the style of mask. A watercolor resist was optional. Before assembling the masks, I— along with some adult volunteers— cut out the masks (and eye holes and appendages as needed) using craft knives. Adult help may also be needed when using the glue guns, depending on the ages of the students. d'Ivoire, or the water spirit masks of music, students could wear the masks the Ijo people of Nigeria, are worn on for a dance or parade. top of the head rather than in front of Dance and music teachers could the face. For these, tagboard shapes work with you to create an impressive were hot-glued performance for to the masks like Masks taken out of context an event, such as the lower part of a a school celebralose their meaning and mortarboard, and the term "African masks" tion of diversity. elastic was stapled Tell the audience to them to go under suggests that there is only about the masks: one African culture. the chin. what people made Raffia or cotton the originals; what is attached to hide the identity of the country they are from; what beliefs wearer—and to look incredibly cool! or customs are associated with them. Instead of being objects on a wall, the Bringing Masks to Life masks become alive with movement After reviewing that a mask is part of and music—a transformation that is a costume, that it is worn for special personal, yet reflects knowledge and occasions, that the wearer moves and respect for another culture. behaves as the animal or spirit repSusan Waddington is an art teacher at resented, and that the movement is Parish Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. accompanied by drumming or other Finishing Touches For a mask designed to be worn in front of the face, 1 x 12" (2.5 x 30 cm) tagboard strips were attached to the left, right, and top of the mask and then fitted to the student's head. Some masks, such as the buffalo helmet masks of the Gouro people of Côte Water spirit mask, Noah. 18 November 2012 SchoolArts

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