Masks held many different roles in African culture, and there are specific kinds of face masks created for varied tasks.
African face masks were sometimes created simply as objects and often hung on walls as decorative pieces, and many people use African masks for this today.
Sometimes these masks served as amulets or talismans, and the masks were meant to welcome certain spirits into the place where they were kept. African masks, even as decoration, are said to carry with them a kind of power that no wall hanging other than the masks themselves can boast.
Masks in Africa were also used in ceremonies and ritual dances. Dancers wore face masks to connect themselves to the spirit world. By wearing masks, dancers were able to show that they were not dancing out of ego. African face masks allowed performers to engage in rituals that transcended their own personalities.
These face masks portray a range of emotions, and African masks are made in a wide variety of styles, so there are no typical masks in African history. Instead, African masks are part of a varied tradition. Each mask is unique.
This fact is part of why masks from Africa are so fascinating and worthy of study. By looking at the African face masks created by different artists in different tribes, it is possible to use the masks as a way to better understand a wide range of people in a wide range of places.
Masks were made differently all over the continent of Africa, so African masks provide tangible links and differences between tribes.