TITLE: Salampasu Mukinka Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Salampasu
DESCRIPTION: Mukinka Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD023
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: adult initiation; funeral; secret society
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; wicker; kaolin clay

The Salampasu people are a small ethnic group living on the frontier between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. They are historically known as fierce warriors and successful hunters, governed by a hierarchical organization of chiefs in concert with the warrior’s society (mugongo).

Masks are used in adult initation ceremonies and can only be worn by initiated males.  Some, such as the kasangu mask, can be worn only by a male who has killed an enemy and has become a member of the Ibuku society. Such persons may also wear the mukinka mask, which, unlike other masks, is danced at funerals of important persons. The valuable copper coating signifies that the mask represents a chief.

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TITLE: Senufo Kponyugo
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Senufo
DESCRIPTION: Kponyugo Mask
CATALOG #: AFCI026
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Funeral; Protection/Purification; Secret Society; Social Control
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: n/a

The Senufo people and reside primarily in Côte d’Ivoire, with some also living in Burkina Faso and Mali. Among their many masking traditions is the kponyugo, or firespitter mask. Its literal meaning is “head of one who died,” and it is used primarily by the Poro secret society at funerals, to drive away evil spirits and punish human malefactors. The mask combines attributes of multiple fierce animals, such as the hyena and warthog (both dominant here), crocodile, ram, and antelope. Women and children are counseld not to look at the kponyugo due to its ferocity.

This mask was acquired by a generous gift from an anonymous donor.

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TITLE: Toussian (Tusyan) Loniaken Mask
TYPE: plank mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Toussian (Tusyan)
DESCRIPTION: Loniaken Plank Mask for Do or Lo Society
CATALOG #: AFBF001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Funeral; Secret Society
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; mineral paint; raffia fiber

The Toussian (also written Tusyan) people are a small ethnic group in southwestern Burkina Faso. Members of the Do or Lo Society dance these masks at funerals and during adult initiation ceremonies of young men. At the ceremonies, the boys are given new, secret names associated with totemic birds or animals.  The loniaken mask itself usually portrays a totemic hornbill bird, and it is specially danced in major Do or Lo Society ceremonies that occur every forty years.

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TITLE: Yaqui Pasko’ola Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Mañor Pasko’ola Mask
CATALOG #: LAMX122
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pasko’ola
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment; funeral; protection
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string; horse hair; shoe string

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The pasko’olas (in the Spanish, pascolas) were malignant spirits, or children of the Devil, whom God won in a game. For that reason, their masks frequently have crucifixes and they wear a belt with twelve bells, each representing an apostle. To symbolize their evil origins, the masks have ugly expressions and vermin such as lizards, snakes and scorpions painted on them. In addition, dancers wear cords and butterfly cocoons on their legs, representing snakes and their rattles. They also wear a flower on their head, to symbolize rebirth and spring. They frequently play the role of clowns, provoking laughter in the audience by mimicking animals, reversing gender roles, organizing mock hunts, and making jokes.

Pasko’olas are danced at every major religious festival, as well as at birthdays, weddings, and funeral celebrations. For example, in Vicam, pasko’olas have traditionally danced on Día de San Juan Bautista (June 24). Sometimes a group of pasko’olas will be accompanied by a deer dancer, who dances with a taxidermy deer head as a crest. Generally, only men are pasko’ola dancers, but women have sometimes been allowed to dance with the permission of the male dancers.

This mask was culturally used in pasko’ola ceremonies for many years.

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TITLE: Temne Bundu Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Sierra Leone
ETHNICITY: Temne
DESCRIPTION: Bundu Society Mask
CATALOG #: AFSL001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Bundu Society
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Temne people of Sierra Leone is unusual in having a female secret society with a masking tradition exclusively its own.  The Bundu Society uses a-Nowo crest masks during girls’ initiation rituals involving adulthood and genital mutilation. The mask represents the Temne conception of an ideal woman. The a-Nowo dancer wears the mask atop the head with a full body costume of dark raffia fiber attached, so that no part of the dancer is visible. A-Nowo masked dancers may also appear at important social events, such as visits of foreign dignitaries and funerals of important members of society. Men carve the mask but cannot participate in the ritual.

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TITLE: Baining Anguangi Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East New Britain Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Baining)
DESCRIPTION: Uramot Anguangi Mask
CATALOG ID: OCPG005
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Night (Atut) Fire Dance
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo; vines; pigment from chewed roots and coconut husk ash

The Baining people live in eastern New Britain Island area known as the Gazelle Peninsula, in a mountainous tropical forest.  They are a Melanesian people closely akin to other groups in Papua New Guinea.  They traditionally live in small villages with dispersed political authority.  The Baining use their masks to unify the otherwise dispersed villagers, usually in celebrations of major events such as yam harvest, births, deaths, or adult initiation for both boys and girls.  Some dances are for the day time, mostly those centered around female tasks such as sowing, harvesting, and births.  Atut dances, also called fire dances because they’re performed around a bonfire, are held at night and center around male activities such as hunting.

The masks are mostly made of mulberry or breadfruit tree bark mashed and pounded into a cloth (“tapa cloth”) over bamboo frames.   This specific mask, the anguangi or atutki, is used in night dances by the Uramot group of Baining people. Unlike other Baining masks, the anguangi is usually retained in the house and not discarded after the ceremony.

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TITLE: Hemba Soko Mutu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Hemba
DESCRIPTION: Soko Mutu (“Man’s Brother”) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD003
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: funeral
AGE: 2000-2005
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Hemba people of southeastern Congo are an agricultural group closely related to the Luba people. They live in ancestor-based clans headed by an elder (fuma mwalo) and organized by a secret society for men (Bukazanzi) and one for women (Bukibilo).

Among the east African peoples, masks rarely represent non-human primates, because the resemblances to human beings are considered unsettling. One important exception is the soko mutu (“man’s brother”) mask of the Hemba. The soko mutu represents a chimpanzee, and the raised eyebrows and wide, jagged mouth are intended to be fearsome.  The Hemba dance the soko mutu mask at funerals in order to symbolize the presence of death in the form of a chimpanzee spirit. Recently, some Hemba have begun calling the mask misi gwa so’o (chimpanzee spirit).

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TITLE: Gyōdō Bosatsu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Japan
SUBREGION: Kyoto
ETHNICITY: Japanese
DESCRIPTION: Mask of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva)
CATALOG ID: ASJP007
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Gyōdō Procession
AGE: early 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood
OTHER MATERIALS: lacquer; paint

The gyōdō procession of Japan is a Buddhist ritual having several forms. Its oldest ceremony involves priests chanting sutras while walking in a procession around a temple building or idol. Gyōdō can also take the form of a masked funeral procession around a temple. The third type, which is the most commonly performed today, is a reenactment of the raigō, the legendary descent of the Amida Buddha from Nirvana to welcome the dead to the Western Paradise. In this ceremony, a priest wearing a mask of the Amida Buddha leads a procession of masked bosatsu.  Bosatsu is the Japanese term of Bodhisattva, a Buddhist saint who delays entering paradise to help mortals on Earth. Each bosatsu carries a heavenly musical instrument. The procession is still performed in some temples, such as Taima-dera in Nara or Sennyuji in Kyoto.

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TITLE: Kwele Helmet Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Gabon
ETHNICITY: Kwele
DESCRIPTION: Ekuk Helmet Mask
CATALOG ID: AFGA008
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Be’ete Society
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment; raffia fiber

The Kwele, also known as Kwese, people of Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo now live between the Dja and Ivindo rivers. Social control is exercised by the Be’ete Secret Society, which uses masks to adult initiation rituals, funerals, and protection of the village from malicious spirits.  The masks embody protective bush spirits, with the antelope a dominant presence among them.  Kaolin clay is nearly always used in Kwele masks, because its white color has spiritual meaning to the Kwele.

This specific mask represents an ekuk, or forest spirit, of a lion.

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TITLE: Kwakwaka’wakw Rabbit
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: British Columbia
ETHNICITY: Kwakwaka’wakw
DESCRIPTION: Rabbit Mask
CATALOG ID: NACA004
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Potlatch
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: red cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; beads; plant fiber

A potlatch is a culturally important ceremony among the coastal indigenous Americans of British Columbia, held on many different occasions.  It could be held to celebrate a family member’s change in social status, such as a marriage, birth, death, or initiation into adulthood.  It could also be held to restore a person’s prestige after a loss in dignity, such as falling out of a canoe or making a hunting error.  The ceremony could last for one day or as long as three weeks, depending on the occasion and the wealth of the giver.

A potlatch typically included three important components: a feast, entertainment, and gift giving to the guests.  The entertainment consisted of singing and masked dancing.  The more lavish the gifts, feast, and entertainment, the greater the prestige gained by the giver.  Because masks and costumes were expensive and time-consuming to make, larger and more elaborate masks raised the prestige of the potlatch giver.  The masks themselves represented totemic animals such as the killer whale, raven, beaver, or shark, or else mythical figures and beasts, such as the KomokwaDzunukwa or Bukwus. This mask represents the rabbit, a totemic animal important to the Kwakwaka’wakw people as a source of fur. As a cultural character, the rabbit was typically represented as a form of clown.

For more on masks of the coastal peoples of western Canada, see Peter MacNair, Robert Joseph & Bruce Grenville, Down from the Shimmering Sky: Masks of the Northwest Coast (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1998) and Edward Malin, A World of Faces: Masks of the Northwest Coast Indians (Portland: Timber Press, 1978).

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