TITLE: Iroquois False Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Ontario
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Onandaga)
DESCRIPTION: Broken Nose False Face Mask
CATALOG ID: NACA006
MAKER: Gene Thomas, Wolf Clan (Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, 1958- )
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: white pine wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; horse hair; paint

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Onandaga, had three medicine societies, one of which was the False Face Society.  It is probably no longer a secret society, because although its membership is limited to initiates who have been cured by the Society or had an important dream, most persons in modern Iroquois communities are apparently aware of the Society’s membership.

Among the important rituals of the False Face Society are village purification of diseases, the healing of sick persons, and facilitation of dream fulfillment during the midwinter festival. The masks worn by the Society take a variety of forms, mostly with blowing lips to blow healing ashes on a sick patient.  The copper eyes convey the spirituality of the mask.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

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TITLE: Yombe Nganga Diphomba Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
ETHNICITY: Kongo (Yombe)
DESCRIPTION: Female Nganga Diphomba (Diviner) mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD020
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Secret Society; Social Control
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment; glass

The Kongo (or Bakongo) is a populous nation historically inhabiting the west coast of central Africa, now confined to the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and northern Angola. The Kongo maintain an animistic religion based on ancestor cults and worship of the supreme god Nzambi. The Kongo people are divided into several subethnicities, including Beembe, Bwende, Vili, Sundi, and the makers of this mask, the Yombe.

The nganga diphomba, or diviner, plays an important role in Yombe society, detecting and punishing sorcery. Most major social ills are attributed to sorcery in Kongo cultures, including drought, crime, and accidents. The society of diviners wears two kinds of masks to identify and punish sorcerers, male (with a beard) and female (with a topknot). Both masks evoke ancestor spirits for the protection fo the diviner. With the mask, they paint their bodies and wear a skirt of turaco feathers and a belt of brass bells.  They use their own sorcery (kundu) to detect the culprit and counteract their curses.

Such masks may also be also used by the Khimba Society in adult initiation rituals, probably by the nganga diphomba himself.

For more on Kongo and Yombe masking traditions, see Marc Leo Felix ed., Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa, Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2018.

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TITLE: Iroquois False Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Ontario
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Onandaga)
DESCRIPTION: Ghost False Face Mask
CATALOG ID: NACA005
MAKER: Gene Thomas, Wolf Clan (Six Nations Reserve, Ontario, 1958- )
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: white pine wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; horse hair; paint

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Onandaga, had three medicine societies, one of which was the False Face Society.  It is probably no longer a secret society, because although its membership is limited to initiates who have been cured by the Society or had an important dream, most persons in modern Iroquois communities are apparently aware of the Society’s membership.

Among the important rituals of the False Face Society are village purification of diseases, the healing of sick persons, and facilitation of dream fulfillment during the midwinter festival. The masks worn by the Society take a variety of forms, mostly with blowing lips to blow healing ashes on a sick patient.  The copper eyes convey the spirituality of the mask.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

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TITLE: Tibet Lakhe
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Tibet
ETHNICITY: Tibetan
DESCRIPTION: Lakhe Mask
CATALOG ID: ASCN009
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: late 19th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: traces of pigment

Shamanic masks arise from animistic religious beliefs rather than Hindu or Buddhist influences. The shamanic influence in Himalayan societies probably arrived from Mongolian nomadic invaders.  The aspiring shaman must depart the community and live in isolation to commune with nature spirits. If the aspirant succeeds, he or she returns to the village with supernatural powers to invoke ancestor and nature spirits that can be either malevolent or protective and turn them to the good of the community.  This gives the shaman healing and divination powers that are used in major life events, such as births, illness, marriage, or death.  Masks are worn during these ceremonies to help the shaman mediate between the material and spiritual worlds.

This mask appears to represent Lakhe, a local demon with a connection to the Hindu god Indra.

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TITLE: Nuna Chameleon Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Chameleon bush spirit mask
CATALOG ID: AFBF008
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; natural pigments

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Bobo Fing Antelope Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Bobo Fing
DESCRIPTION: Antelope Mask
CATALOG ID: AFBF006
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 2000-2009
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment

The Bobo Fing are a Mande-speaking ethnic group inhabit farming communities in Burkina Faso. They share with their neighbors, the Bwa, Nuna, Nunuma, and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style. Although their masks appear similar, the Bobo Fing are not closely related to these groups, who speak a different family of languages.

Masks such as this one are used to celebrate many important village events, including funerals, the initiation of boys into adulthood and the purification of the region to ensure good rainfall and fruitful crops at planting time. Masked dances erase human evils by restoring a connection to and balance with the sun, rain, and earth. The masks typically represent protective bush spirits such as the warthog, buffalo, fish, antelope, serpent, or hawk. All such masks incarnate the spirits of fertility, fecundity, and growth. The wearer of the mask is considered to embody the sacred spirit during the masquerade.

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TITLE: Nuna Antelope Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Roan antelope mask
CATALOG ID: AFBF004
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment; dyed plant fibers

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

:

TITLE: Iroquois False Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Québec
ETHNICITY: Iroquois (Mohawk)
DESCRIPTION: Square Mouth Blower Mask
CATALOG ID: NACA008
MAKER: John Elliott, Turtle Tribe (1955- )
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Secret Society
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; horse hair; paint

The Mohawk people (Kanien’kehá-ka) belong to the Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) and historically inhabited western New York state, as well as parts of Quebec and Ontario, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations, including the Mohawk, had three medicine societies, one of which was the False Face Society.  It is probably no longer a secret society, because although its membership is limited to initiates who have been cured by the Society or had an important dream, most persons in modern Iroquois communities are apparently aware of the Society’s membership.

Among the important rituals of the False Face Society are village purification of diseases, the healing of sick persons, and facilitation of dream fulfillment during the midwinter festival. The masks worn by the Society take a variety of forms, mostly with blowing lips to blow healing ashes on a sick patient.  The copper eyes convey the spirituality of the mask.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

:

TITLE: Nuna Hornbill Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Horanbill Mask
CATALOG ID: AFBF002
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

:

TITLE: Tibetan Shaman Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Tibet
ETHNICITY: Tibetan
DESCRIPTION: Shaman mask of three-toothed spirit
CATALOG ID: ASCN006
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Divination; Healing; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: Unknown
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

Shamanic masks arise from animistic religious beliefs rather than Hindu or Buddhist influences.  The shamanic influence in Himalayan societies probably arrived from Mongolian nomadic invaders.  The aspiring shaman must depart the community and live in isolation to commune with nature spirits. If the aspirant succeeds, he or she returns to the village with supernatural powers to invoke ancestor and nature spirits that can be either malevolent or protective and turn them to the good of the community.  This gives the shaman healing and divination powers that are used in major life events, such as births, illness, marriage, or death.  Masks are worn during these ceremonies to help the shaman mediate between the material and spiritual worlds.

: