Out Of Africa: The Black and Gold Mask Collection

Imagine yourself in the grassy savannah of Burkina Faso. The dry heat of January radiates around you as you gather with a tribe of Bwa villagers to celebrate their successful summer harvest. Drummers tap out a loud rhythmic beat as a group of dancers dressed in suits of dyed grass and hibiscus leaf begin to dance. They hold ornately carved masks to their faces as they leap high into the air and then stomp their feet powerfully on the ground, kicking up dust as they shake and writhe their bodies in time with the music.

A Bwa dancer in Burkina Faso wears a traditional mask and grass suit to perform at a ceremony. Credit: TransAfrica

These ceremonies play an important role in all facets of life in Burkina Faso, as well as in many other countries and tribal nations on the continent of Africa. While the individual beliefs and ceremonies may differ between tribes, the common thread between them is the great importance of masks in the celebration of traditional African spiritual practices. Lladró’s Black and Gold Mask collection draws inspiration from and celebrates this important aspect of African culture, allowing you to have a reminder of the beauty of African cultures with you wherever you are in the world.

Lladró’s Black and Gold masks are the focal point of this modern bathroom by Cesar Avila at the Casa Décor design show 2022.

The masks in Lladró’s Black and Gold collection take the form of six animals; a buffalo, a lion, a tiger, a mandrill, an owl, and an antelope. Representations of animals are often seen in African masks, as many tribes believe that this can help the wearer to connect with the animal spirits or those ancestral spirits which reside in forests or on the open savannah. Animal masks can also represent the Totem animal of a specific tribe, group, or individual. A person or tribe can have many totem animals to which they relate or feel a spiritual connection, and these are often, but not always, animals native to their region whose conservation and protection they contribute to, or who they rely on for food or trade.

The colours and patterns of the Black and Gold collection are common in traditional African masks, such as this Hausa mask from Ghana. Credit: Novica

Colour can also have significant meaning when used for the decoration of masks, particularly for tribes who rely primarily on visual symbolism rather than written or verbal forms of communication. These meanings may differ slightly between tribes however some are widely accepted. For example, white is generally used to symbolise spiritual purity and beauty, while black is symbolic of emotional maturity. In a similar way, the use of gold symbolises abundance in a number of forms, obviously including monetary wealth and status, but also wisdom and spiritual wellbeing. It is also believed by many tribes to have mystical abilities such as driving away negative energies and spirits. The use of these colours in the Black and Gold collection is deeply meaningful as these colours are often used in combination to represent the balance between maturity and innocence that is necessary for spiritual wholeness.

The Black and Gold collection displays equally well on a wall or a display stand.

Similarly, the shapes and patterns used to decorate these masks can also be used for communication or simply for adornment. In some tribes of West Africa, ornate patterns on masks are used to represent the scarification of the body, which is often used as a sign of bravery and leadership in war, and was also used in the 15th and 16th centuries to prevent tribal members from being taken to the Americas. In North African tribes, the use of geometrical shapes in mask making is influenced by the spread of Islam in the region and the ideals of Muslim art, whilst in tribes like the Bwa of Burkina Faso, the patterns used to decorate ceremonial masks contain important spiritual motifs, the meaning of which is revealed to young adult members of the tribe during their coming-of-age and initiation ceremonies.

African cultures are unique in that they don’t view darkness as a negative but rather as a necessary force in the balance of life. Lladró aims to catalogue and preserve these unique cultures through their heritage pieces, such as the Black and Gold mask collection, which uses elements of traditional mask design to explore the ways in which African peoples communicate this spiritual wholeness through art and visual forms.

Lladró’s Tiger and Mandrill masks bring a slice of African culture to this tropical garden.

Contact our team to find out more.

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