Did you know...

Masks often represent departed ancestors, spirit beings, and invisible powers.

Masks are made from various materials including leather, metal, and different types of wood.

In Africa, masks are generally worn by men.





Mask Making

Steps: 12345678910


newspaper and brown paper bags wall paper paste masking tape file folders/cardboard
paint (various colors) glue, scissors, exacto knife varnish feathers (varies)
rope (varies) raffia (varies) beads (varies) other adornments


Steps Suggested Time Frame
1. Crush newspaper into the desired shape of the mask. For the most part, the shape of an adult human head is the easiest shape with which to work.

1 class period

2. With a few pieces of masking tape, roughly tape the newspaper into the desired shape. Use cardboard or file folders to hold the shape together. 1-2 class periods
3. Prepare the papier mache solution by mixing wall paper paste and water (50/50). With torn (not cut) strips of newspaper, dip the strips into the solution and cover the front and sides of the mask form only. Strips should not be longer than five inches each and should not be wider than one inch. Complete this process until mask has been covered with at least four layers of papier mache. Mask should be wet, but not dripping with mixture. If the mask is too wet, add another layer of dry strips. 2-3 class periods
4. Nose, brows, eyelids, and other facial characteristics should be added at this time. Use pieces of file folders and newspaper to These additions should be covered with four layers of papier mache. Place the mask on a dry surface to dry. 3-6 class periods
5. When mask is thoroughly dry (usually the next day after you finish step 4), cut a hole in the back or under the mask and pull the foundation (the original balled-up form) from the papier mache. To strengthen the edges of the mask, tear small pieces (two inch strips) of brown paper bags, dip in paper mache mixture, and cover around the entire rim of the mask. The purpose of this process is to strengthen the weakest part of the mask.
Pieces of brown paper bag with printing should not be used.
1-2 class periods
6. Cut areas on your mask where the eyes, mouth, nose, etc. should be. Cover the entire mask with strips of paper bag and the mixture. The inside of the mask should also be covered with brown paper bag strips. When done, you should only see brown strips of paper bags covering your mask. 2-4 class periods
7. When dry, the mask is ready to be painted (usually the day after you finish step 6). Depending on the design of the mask, painting may take several sittings. 2-4 class periods
8. Varnish mask when paint dries (usually day after step 7). 1 class period
9. Feathers, beads, yarn, rope or other adornments may be added. Depending on complexity of mask, the time this takes to complete varies.
2-4 class period
10. Holes are punched in the sides of the mask for the purpose of display. 1 class period

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Website Created by Leilani Carbonell © 2002
Content and Student Work Provided by Leilani Carbonell and Kent Fitzsimmons, Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland, CA


African Mask