The symbol of the mask comes from Senghor's poems "Prayer to the Masks" and "Black Mask". The mask he refers to in the poem is an actual West African stylized mask. In the poem the mask represents the permanence of the past in the present. This representation is achieved through Senghor's choice to elevate the mask outside of a particular time. The mask becomes a figure that is carried on throughout eternity which corresponds with the idea presented in negritude that the past will be key in making a culture for the future. It is detached from a specific person but remains the connection between the ancestor and the people of the present outside of colonial relations. For Senghor the mask is the symbol from which the spirit of Africa flows. It also has a strong connection to masculinity as the symbol of virility; it is what inspires the incubation of the womb (woman) to reproduce culture.
From "Black Mask"
Facelike Mask closed to the ephemeral, without eyes, / Without substance, / Perfect head of bronze with its patina of time, / Unsullied by rouge or blushing or wrinkles / No traces of tears or kisses / O face such as God created you before even the memory of time
From "Prayer to the Masks"
You keep this place safe from women's laughter/ And any wry, profane smiles / You exude the immortal air where I inhale / The breath of my Fathers.