Psycho-Context of the Mask

The mask as a contextual element in the Ghanaian society manifest in different materials manipulated in its creation. The manifestation of the mask comes in similar or different artistic forms. Ranging from fabric and fabric scrap manipulations, wooden manipulation, composite materials manipulation, chicken mesh manipulation, papier mache manipulation, metal and wood manipulation and other contemporary conceptual representations.   A continuum of special material needs depicts differences or similarities in philosophies for creation and usage. Material selection, adoption and usage is seen as a critical stage in the creation of the mask, this is done with an undertone of the final usage. This stage when well executed, presumes a suggestive potent performance during usage.

The superstructure radiates elements of sacredness in the Ghanaian communities. Whether used for secular, religious, political, spiritual or ritual performance, there are cultural underpinnings that radiates the feeling of sacredness. The cultural underpinnings range from narratives of mythologies, folkloric expressions, heroic images and representations, reenactment of societal battles of an epoch, materializing benevolent spirits, some for enculturation of cultural morals, values and attitudes.

A warehouse of knowledge of the user and the viewers conscious, unconscious and the subconscious also creates a fertile ground for mask appreciation and euphoria. An informed viewer comprehends the thick descriptions of the mask and its accompanying performance, unlike the innocent viewer who appreciates the extrinsic qualities and aesthetic appeal.

The inside of the masks is an encasing for the wearers face and by some extension the head to evoke characterization and transformation of personality. It is the start point for the masquerading process, concealing identity and projecting the rebirth of a new identity.

The outside features, the expressions, the energy, the artistic elements creatively organized as display boards to evoke emotions which are most of the times mixed, depending on the viewer, but mostly engaging terrifying moment.  

Expressive colours on masks are critical external features, they communicate group alliance or aid the needed symbolism and predetermines the context for its usage either in the secular or the sacri-religious milieu.

When not in use, they still radiate a feeling of active embodiment because of the contextual performance it engaged in, simply put masks even not in use are personified. It reflects the activated performance prior to its removal. The mask is never innocent whether before performance, during performance and even after performance.

* Safo -Ankama, Kweku is a Ghanaian Textile artist with interest in performance costume, masqueradeculture and adapting old textiles for contemporary usage.