Upcycle Progress: Afrofuturism Mask

I think I have finally settled on an idea for upcycling project: keeping with the Afrofuturism aesthetic I chose last week, I am going to make an Afrofuturistic Tribal Mask.

Some of my favorite projects have always been headwear, mostly helmets but now a mask. I think the reason I enjoy doing them so much is that you can convey so much on a headpiece, and we as humans biologically recognize a lot in the face and head. Potentially the most universally recognized assortment of shapes are two dots and a curve; a smiley face!

Pictured above are some of the sketches I have done to try to imagine what a futuristic African mask might look like. My main strategy is to choose modern engineered materials that mimic natural resources traditionally used in mask making. Where a traditional African art piece would use wood, I will use cardboard in the goal of invoking the same traditional design but with futuristic (modern household) materials. Instead of carved beads I use LED lights, instead of hairs and fibers I use 3D printed filament ‘spaghetti’ (tangled plastic filament waste).

Below are some of the materials I have gathered so far.

From left to right: Big cardboard box good for panels, 3D printing filament waste, 3D printing filament spools, and a bunch of colorful LED lights. For all except the spools I am pretty confident on how I might use them, I will keep trying to think of a way to incorporate them. My next steps first include sketching exactly or near exactly what I want the project to look like, I expect to finish that by the end of this week. From there I will need to make a very rough mockup of the design in CAD, mainly the face panels so I can download the files to be laser cut. I can hopefully get the CAD done quickly and cut the cardboard next Monday. From there I will do what assembly I can over the week, and finish up the rest the weekend before the 19th.

Currently I am still in the process of feeling out what I want the mask to look like, and I have been looking at pictures of existing African masks. Below are a few masks that I really like, and even one that is a piece of concept art for an afrofuturism short film being released sometime in the future.









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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Andres Serrano
    February 12, 2024 5:09 pm

    I like this idea and the variety of materials you’re going to use for this! How long does it usually take you to make a mask/headwear? Are you going to spend several hours making this?

  • Barrett, what a cool and creative idea! I think the variety of materials you have accumulated will lead to a really fun and interesting upcycle project!
    What are some examples of headware that you’ve made in the past? Did you learn any lessons that will help you in the creation of this artifact?


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