Masks have been created for centuries by people all over the world. People often wear masks to take on another persona or to ward off supernatural forces. African masks are typically worn in ceremonies to embody spiritual powers, for dance rituals, or created for decorative use. Some masks are highly recognizable as human faces while others are animal representations. Masks are a form of sculpture. Contemporary Africans still carve masks out of wood.
Generally, African art is very functional, positive and optimistic. The use of abstract design and geometric patterns are common. A few of the mediums African artists work with are wood, stone, terra-cotta, mud and beadwork. One of the main functions of art in African society is to help control the forces that regulate peoples lives. These forces may be natural or supernatural. Other themes in African art are the rural and urban communities and the relationships between the sexes.