Masks hold a deep cultural significance in West African societies and they are used as part of social and religious rituals. It is believed that they protect those wearing them, helping the wearer communicate with gods, spirits, and ancestors. Traditionally, the masks are believed to trap and control the spirit of the wearer for the benefit of the living. The wearer loses their identity and embodies the spirit represented by the mask. Because of this, only a select few have the honour of wearing masks, and the artists who create ceremonial masks have a high status. Mask making is handed down from generation to generation, from father to son.
The Satimbe mask is comprised of wood, fiber, and a bright pigment costume. This mask is danced in the Dogon culture, representing female ancestors. These masks are square-shaped, with a figure placed on top of the mask, representing the female. Representations of the woman can be of her role is in the community, what she wishes to be, her strengths and so on. The masks appear at funerals to chase the spirits of the dead away from the village into the to the bush.
(Image Source: Satimbe masks of the Dogon by Mark Abel)