Wh at are we looking for?• Shape and Form- Geometric or Organic. Form is the three dimensional shape.• Texture- is the way something feels.• Color- how many colors did the artists use?• Materials – what materials did the artist use?
MaskDan, Liberia, ca. 19th centuryWood, copper, iron, fiber, 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm) highGift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the LintonCollection of African Art1954.28.7Among the Dan people, it is through a dream that anancestor spirit calls upon a man to offer help andadvice. A mask is then commissioned from a carver,fulfilling the spirits desire to participate in humanactivities in a tangible form and to benefit its humancounterpart. Several categories of Dan masks haveoval faces, slit eyes framed with kaolin, and a smallmouth. This mask with its headband of metal bladesresembles a type of Dan mask that is a powerful lawenforcer of the Go leopard society, though it mayoriginally have been used as a friendly, joyful masktype.
Insignia masksDan/Mano, Liberia, late 19th–early 20th centuryWood, metal, encrustation, 2 1/4 in. (5.7 cm) to 4 in. (10.2 cm) highGift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art19220.127.116.11, .2, .4, .28, .30Almost all Dan masks have corresponding miniature masks that serve several purposes. Miniature portraits of their owners, or nature spiritsand ancestors, these tiny masks are carried in the pocket and used as insignia of ritual power. Some are owned by high-ranking maleleaders; some are given to young male initiates as needed. Like full-sized face masks, the miniatures are endowed with spiritual power andare used to protect against evil spirits. A miniature can be a portable point of contact with the religious community when the owner of amask is away from home. Miniature masks can also be used as protective objects; they are anointed with palm oil in times of uncertainty ordanger to invoke the protective power of a spirit represented in a larger mask. They may be buried with the owner at death or bequeathed.
Mask (Kaogle)Dan, Liberia, late 19th–early 20th centuryWood, encrustation, 11 in. (27.9 cm) highGift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the LintonCollection of African Art1959.72.7Kaogle masks, taking the appearance of a chimpanzeewith exaggerated, cubistic features, are used to providerowdy entertainment and to incite young men of thevillage to work out their aggressions in dance. The free-for-all is accompanied by palm wine drinking, a slitgong orchestra, and singers. The animalistic behavior ofthe masked dancer parallels the unpredictable actionsof the ape, thus teaching good behavior by acting outits inverse. Kaogles goal is to enrage the audience: atone time, the masquerade may have even been used toanger men who were about to go into battle. Adornedwith a cotton wig, bunches of leaves, or short feathers,the mask is worn with a floor-length gown of raffia anda mantle of cotton cloth.
Mask (Gongoli)Mende, Sierra Leone/Liberia, late 19th-early 20thcenturyWood, black pigment, red paint, traces of fabric, 19 in.(48.3 cm) highCharles B. Benenson CollectionCB529Ugly!—this is the reaction of the Mende audience whenit sees this mask in performance—and the uglier thebetter. The function of this performance is to show theworst side of human nature: deformed, disheveled,chaotic, undisciplined, deceptive, and antisocial. Themask is worn with a hideous costume of dead leavesand rags. The movements of the character aredisjointed, erratic, awkward, and amusing.
Male mask with headdress (Kpakologi)Loma/Kpelle, Liberia/Guinea, early 20th centuryWood, feathers, textile, hide, cloth, fiber, pigment,metal, 77 in. (195.6 cm) highCharles B. Benenson CollectionCB734From the Loma or Kpelle people of the border ofLiberia and Guinea, this mask with headdress andcomplete costume presents a conundrum. Thecostume of feathers is a type used by the Onil 駡 gi(Bird Mask) dancers among the Loma, who wear nomask but paint their faces white. The white mask issimilar to a Loma mask, painted black, calledKpakologi, which has an articulated jaw and a bundleof feathers at the top, but whose costume is made ofraffia and cloth. Although we cannot be sure the maskbelongs to this costume, we do know how it wouldhave been used. In performance, such large woodenmasks are customarily worn on the forehead ratherthan on the face and, when worn horizontally,resemble a crocodile head with bared teeth. When themasked dancer leans over and faces the audience,however, the mask is seen as a human face.
Mask representing a youngwoman (Mwana Pwo)Chokwe, Angola, 20th centuryWood, fiber, red pigment, 10 in.(25.4 cm) highGift of Mr. and Mrs. James M.Osborn for the Linton Collection ofAfrican Art1954.28.27The Mwana Pwo mask is said tobestow luckupon people who witnessits dance. Decorative scarificationdesigns appear on the masksforehead, nose, cheeks, and chin.The mask is coiffed in the popularKambu ja tota style: short plaitswrapped in balls of red clay. Thecostume is a body sheath of nettedfiber. Carvers often model their Pwomasks on particular young womensfaces. The spiritual representation,however, is an ancestral woman.Pwo perform from village to village.In some areas, the acrobatic danceis performed on a tightrope twenty-five feet high.
Mask (Mbuya)Pende, Congo (Kinshasa), late 19th–early 20th centuryWood, fiber, 15 in. (38.1 cm) highGift of Mr. & Mrs. William B. Jaffe1969.106This mask would have been danced bya man, but its harmonious, femininefeatures suggest that it may be agabuku mbuya, a caricature of an vainyoung woman. Most mbuya depict ageneralized village character or aprominent member of the community(such as a ruler or a palm winetapster). It is usually impossible,however, to determine the identity of aPende mask without seeing it inperformance, as mask forms are verysimilar, but movement is specific toeach masquerade type.
Mask (Tanka Gle)Dan, Liberia/Ivory Coast, late 19th–early 20thcenturyWood, fiber, nail, 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm) highDirectors Discretionary Fund1982.71Only by seeing the dance itself is it possible toidentify definitively the function of most Dan masks.Each represents a spirit revealed to its owner in adream and then carved. This mask seems to be theTanka Gle, which performs at the visit of dignitariesand sings and recites proverbs asking Gods blessingon the people. Tanka Gle are entertainmentmasquerades, known to be gentle, good-humored,and amusing. Tanka Gle masqueraders usually wearleg rattles and fiber or cloth costumes. They carrycalabash rattles and perform beautiful dances, shortskits, and songs. This mask, with forehead andtemples adorned with a fiber coiffure, once had teeththat were probably made from aluminum. The holesaround the chin of the mask indicate that it mayoriginally have had a beard or a fringe attached.
Portrait maskBaule, Ivory Coast, early 20th centuryWood, metal, 12 in. (30.5 cm) highPurchased with a gift from Steven M.Kossak, B.A. 1972, and with theLeonard C. Hanna, Jr., B.A. 1913, Fund1996.13.1At first glance this mask seems to besymmetrical, but a closer look revealsthat one eye is slightly higher than theother. Such subtle and balancedasymmetry is characteristic of Bauleart. The mask is a portrait of a womanwho was probably a very skilled dancerin her village. The woman herself orone of her female descendants wouldhave accompanied the mask when itwas performed.
Mask (Kponyugu)Senufo, Burkina Faso/Ivory Coast/Mali, late19th–early 20th centuryWood, pigment, metal, 35 in. (88.9 cm) highCharles B. Benenson CollectionCB282The Kponyugu performer appears in rituals ofthe Poro association, especially at funerals.This mask is in the form of an animal headwith large, open mouth and spiked teeth, theflat horns of the buffalo, the huge jaw of thecrocodile or warthog, the ears of the hyena,and, on top of the head, a chameleon. Each ofthese animals plays a role in the Senufostories of the creation of the world. The ownerof the mask may use it in conducting aninitiation of elder men into the senior level.The masked dancers also may perform at thefuneral of deceased male and female Poromembers.