Give yourself supernatural powers
Having read a little about the “power masks”, we realise how much we might learn from people and cultures that we are not exposed to every day.
How could we deal with problems in a different way? How might we change ourselves?
One way (at least in the Dan mask culture) is to put on a special mask that increases our ability to change lives – for the better.
Can you think of an example from your own culture – whether from popular stories, films, from advertising, or from myth and legend – where someone is transformed by putting on some kind of clothing, headgear, a pair of glasses or anything else?
Imagine that you could wear something that would give you extra or superhuman powers. What would that garment or attire be? What powers would you choose to have?
You will need:
All the painted papers from the painting and colour-mixing session in the theme Getting
Started, or any other leftover coloured papers that you have.
Glue sticks – at least one between two people (or wood glue diluted with water on polystyrene trays).
A cardboard base, slightly larger than the size of a face – one per person.
A firm stick or dowel for each mask.
Masking tape or plastic packaging tape
Now you will make your own “power mask”. Unlike the Dan, Mano and Wenion masks, these will not be secret, and when you have finished making them they can be shown off, worn, and their powers demonstrated!
Instead of using wood, you will make your power masks from painted papers.
Tear your painted pages into a variety of interesting shapes. You can tear triangles, zigzags, rectangles, circles, organic blobs, or any other invented shapes.
Take time to think for a few moments about yourself, and answer some questions:
- What do you dream of achieving
- What do you dream of achieving for
- What extraordinary attributes or powers do you think you need to achieve these dreams?
- Do you need an unusual physical strength?
- Do you think you need any special sensory or mental powers?
Or something else?
Now use your shapes to make your own power mask. Although you might be able to identify facial features in this mask, it does not need to look like an ordinary person. In fact, like the pictures of masks in this book, it may well look strange or mysterious.
Follow these steps to create your masks
Begin by selecting a cardboard base. Cut the basic shape of your mask face.
- Glue layers of coloured paper fragments on top of this supporting base, to form the basic ‘skin’.
- Now choose shapes for the eyes of the mask. They don’t have to be round and they don’t have to be the same – be adventurous and experimental when choosing shapes.
- Position them carefully, deciding whether they should be close together or wide apart, at the top of the face or low down. Notice the different effect created by each position.
- You may want to try bending and distorting some of your shapes, by forming the paper into cones, steps, tubes, boxes, or any other forms before gluing it down so that it will emerge from the base. See the pictured examples.
- Choose and position a shape for a nose and then a mouth. Here again, there is no need to be literal: they can be any shape that expresses “nose” or “mouth” for you – with no limits! (What nose shape expresses special certain powers of smell, for example?)
- Add smaller details to the main features, such as eyeballs, eyelashes and teeth. Tear layers and stick down these details on top. You might also want these to flap or protrude from the base.
- Consider other aspects of the face such as ears, eyebrows, hair, wrinkles, shadows under the eyes or blemishes. Or make up designs on the face – triangles, spirals, zigzags, or any other.
- When you are happy with your mask, you could tape it securely onto a stick for carrying, or attach strings for tying onto your head.
Use your power: The performance
When everyone has finished building their masks, each student will make up a dance or masquerade with the mask, with a special voice-sound. Express its power!
Take turns to present this to the group. See how effectively the unique power of each mask communicates.
Adapting this lesson
Find more images of masks from different parts of Africa to show to your class. For example, look for the masks of the Mitsogho, Fang, Vuvi or Puou from Gabon; the Songye or Lwalwa from the Congo area; the Bwa from Burkina Faso or the Yaure from Côte d’Ivoire.
After your students have found out more about mask-making traditions, they could make their own, using different materials to those described above, including:
Papers: newspaper, magazines, coloured papers or card, telephone directories, cardboard and packaging.
Found 3-dimensional waste materials: boxes, cartons, lids, toilet rolls, plastic bottles, packaging.
Found natural materials: sticks, leaves, pods, grasses, stones and sand.