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By Kariamu Welsh-Asante

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Mask dances can represent a figure or force from a secret society and secrecy becomes even more important on those occasions. q 3/25/04 8:34 PM Page 46 46 AFRICAN DANCE mask dancers often perform on stilts. The dancer performing the mask dance can wear a helmet-type headdress that also covers the face and these helmets can extend a couple of feet into the air. Cowrie shells, feathers, raffia, animal skins, and wood are some of the materials used for mask dances. Masquerade dances represent dances and songs that are known to the community and have a historical and ancestral lineage.

The hands are thrust into the water and slowly drawn to the waist, trapping the fish between the hands and the body as they are gathered. Homowo is a corn harvest dance in Ghana. Special corn meal, called kpoi-kpoi, mixed with palm nut soup is prepared to celebrate the dance. Both men and women perform the dance and a special white cloth called the Caba is worn. Also from Ghana, the Sokodae is a dance to express thankfulness for the fruits of the earth, and it is performed by women and men. Kotou, from the Ivory Coast, is another harvest dance.

Rhythm enhances the artistic consciousness of the artist and performer. It renders new and different meanings each time, thereby opening new dimensions in creativity. The fact is that rhythm is both a powerful and subtle aspect of the African arts. Although rhythm has been subjected to numerous interpretations and theories, none of them sufficiently explain the phenomena; the real understanding is to understand that each time a meaning is discovered, there remains another meaning to be uncovered.

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