How To Make Paper African Masks

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Things You'll Need

  • Card stock or construction paper

  • Scissors

  • Pencil

  • Templates

  • Craft glue

  • Craft knife

  • Raffia

  • Pictures of African masks

Animals are a common motif for African masks.

African masks are interesting in appearance and have unique historical relevance, making them an appropriate project for kids learning about African culture and history -- or even for home decorators looking to create wall decor for African-themed or eclectic rooms. Paper can be used to make simple, but beautiful, African masks. Follow a few simple instructions to create your own paper African masks.


Step 1

Decide on a theme for the mask, whether it will depict a regular person, tribal chief, mythological figure or an animal. This will help you decide how you would like to decorate the mask.

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Step 2

Make a shape for the base of the mask. Traditionally, the base would be oval or rectangular, and in a shade of brown or black. Use an oval or rectangular template, such as a plate or empty food container, that is about the size of your face (or larger, if you want a big mask), and trace it onto a piece of brown or black paper.


Step 3

Leave the shape as it is, or customize the shape by making the "chin" more pointy, rounding the edges of a rectangle or rounding the top of the head.

Step 4

Add horns or ears to make your shape look more animal, or human, depending on what you want the mask to depict. To make horns, use a banana as a template. Lay a banana on a sheet of paper -- either the same color as your base, or a different color -- and trace around it with a pencil. Flip it over and trace around it again for the other horn.


Step 5

Cut out the shapes and glue them to the top of your mask. If you want to make animal ears, find a leaf with a shape you like to use as a template. Make two tracings of it on paper, cut out the ears and glue them in place. If you want human or primate ears, use a small oval or round template to trace them onto paper, cut them out and glue one to each side of the mask.


Step 6

Cut out slits for the eyes, nose or mouth if you like. Not all African masks have cut-out sections for these features, so if you are using your mask strictly as wall art, you can skip this step. If you are planning to wear your mask, you must at least cut eye holes so that you can see. Use something small as a template to trace onto the mask base, such as bottle caps for circular openings, or paper clips for slit-like openings. Leaves are effective almond-shaped eye templates. After you trace the template in the spot that you want the eyes, nose and/or mouth, use scissors to cut out the shape.


Step 7

Add dimension to your mask by adding more layers of paper to build up certain areas. Make a nose by tracing a triangle on paper, cutting it out and bending it down the center. Glue it to the center of the mask. Make a heavy brow by taking a strip of paper and gluing it across the top above the eyes. Design and cut out shapes resembling lips and glue them on the mask where the mouth would go, or around the mouth hole if you made one. Layer several cutouts of the same shapes together to build up that particular feature of the mask and make it 3-D. Be creative.


Step 8

Add details by gluing on more paper, such as stripes, spirals, symbols or spots. Trace these shapes, using templates of your choice, onto different-colored paper than the base. Cut them out and glue them onto your mask to decorate it. If you prefer, use die-cut shapes sold in craft stores, or paper punches if you have any in your collection.


Step 9

Add hair to your mask if you like by gluing on raffia or any kind of dried grass. Allow the glue to dry.

Step 10

Punch holes in the sides of your mask if you would like to wear it. Hold it to your face and make a pencil mark on each side, right at about the same height as your ears. Punch a hole where you have made the pencil mark. Thread ribbon through the holes. Hold your mask to your face and tie the ribbon behind your head to secure it.


Look for photos of real African masks to give you inspiration and ideas.


Let the glue dry between layers and use a cardboard base to avoid the paper layers becoming too heavy.



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