Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DIY ‘African’ Mask & Printable Book

In college, I volunteered as a docent in a museum that had an incredible collection of African art. Some of the other docents avoided that gallery like it was cursed, but I loved parading groups of adults and children through there. My art history classes had taught me enough to help me explain the art in a way that people could relate to. Once you understand it within the context of your own life, customs, and society, its beauty and craftsmanship are especially inspiring.

I hit the library to see what wonderful literature could help my son relate to African masks and how/when they were worn. Um … well … it wasn’t exactly a successful trip. While I’m sure someone has written amazing books paralleling African art and traditions with our own North American customs, my library didn’t have any of them. Not to be discouraged, I made my own printable book.

This book shows where in the world Africa is, and draws comparisons between Western theatre, Halloween, and superheroes and the masks of Africa. Feel free to print the book I made; Download the first three pages, flip over the stack of papers and download and print the second three on the back. Reorder the pages, fold in the middle, staple on the fold and share with your child(ren).

Use a plastic milk jug as a mask.

Earlier in the week, I shared with my son the one book I did find at my local library: Carol Finley's The Art of African Masks. We looked at the book's pictures together.

Then, I told my son we were going to make a mask and asked him to identify shapes for the eyes and mouth. Once he showed me what he liked, I cut an empty gallon-sized plastic milk jug in half, and used an Exacto knife to cut out eyes and a mouth in the shapes he’d identified.

The eyes were cut on either side of the jug’s handle (which serves as the nose). Then, I used a paper punch to add holes, where I would tie elastic cord later. I painted the jug beige using Krylon Fusion spray paint for plastics. (In hindsight, the paint was probably unnecessary.)

Decorate the mask.
After we read and completed the printable book I made, I handed my son lots of different bits and bobs to use to decorate his own ‘African’ mask (e.g. a dried-soup bean mix, ric-rac trim, dried pasta, raffia, buttons, etc.). We worked together to add the embellishments; I placed lines of low-temp glue wherever he instructed.

He added elbow macaroni around the eyes for eyelashes and ric-rac hair, taking his time to get it just right. He sorted the beans. He made AB patterns with the pasta. And he did those things without my suggestion! I was super impressed with the final product. Once the glue had set, I tied elastic string around the back so he could wear it. I thought the mask was done.

I was wrong.

For the next two days, he continued decorating the mask – now with permanent markers. I loaned him my Sharpie collection and watched as the mask I already thought was amazing became EVEN MORE incredible (see the picture at the top of this post).

He loves his new ‘African’ mask, even wearing it occasionally when we play card games or watch TV. I did have to draw the line at wearing it during dinner though (even with it pushed up on his forehead).


  1. THIS IS AWESOME!! Your stuff ALWAYS is! I am pinning this to do at a future time, but we WILL DO IT! Please link it up on Friday at TGIF Linky party, okay =-)

  2. What fun! I love the way he decorated the mask. :-)

  3. Wow what a great way to recycle an old bottle. I Love it!! And a great way to explore other cultures and traditions. Great post!

    Thank you for sharing on Kids Get Crafty!!


  4. What a cool mask! You are so creative!

  5. I just realized I never followed you via GFC (I got all the others =-) I just joined up! Thanks for linking this to TGIF Linky Party!
    Beth =-)

  6. Oh my, this is seriously one of the coolest activities I've ever seen! My boys will be ecstatic about making these! I can already picture them parading around the house in their masks, proud as could be. We will definitely be doing this!

  7. I am LOVING this. I also LOVE printables. I see you have many different printables, LOVE IT! I'm your newest follower from the TGIF linky party! Stop by my blog, I'd love to have you!

  8. I love that mask! He did a great job with it!

  9. This is a fantastic idea, it would never have occurred to me to make a mask out of a milk bottle. You are so creative. I pinned this post "for later" :)

  10. The milk carton makes a perfect mask, and this one turned out great! Your printables looks great, too =)

  11. that is fantastic --- so cool!

    thanks for linking to Hey Mom, Look What I Did at Adventures In Mommy Land Hope to see you again next time!!

  12. oh, I LOVE this milk jug mask!!!!! FABULOUS!!!!

    Thanks for linking to the Sunday Showcase! Can't wait to see what you share with us this week.


  13. Very cool idea! Thank you so much for sharing the book. My son will love this!