Carving is an art form found throughout the world. With hundreds of years of experience, Africans have become excellent carvers passing their knowledge down through the generations. Most carvings have traditional or practical importance and serve a purpose in the culture of the sculptor. Although beautiful objects, they are first and foremost utilitarian objects. They can serve to remind us of an important lesson, give us the tool we were lacking, or can serve in rites and rituals. One can find carvings as diverse as plates and eating utensils to stools and statues. Of course there are carvings which serve in traditional rites: masks are one such type of carving.
Masks have always been an important part of African culture. They are used in rituals and festivals which vary from fertility rituals to initiations into adulthood; from healing rituals to agricultural festivals. Masks often serve as the place in which a spirit or soul can be temporarily housed. Masks serve not only as a place to house spirits but also in various ways such as protective amulets, in funeral rites and as an instrument of power which allows an elder to assert his authority.
Mama hopes that the information the carvers give about each piece will help you choose the carving that suits you best. After all, the artists who make them take great care to create excellent pieces not only so that you will find a good
looking art piece; but to maintain the traditional value of the art they make.