TITLE: Kuba Lele Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
SUBREGION: Kasai River
ETHNICITY: Lele (Kuba)
DESCRIPTION: Helmet Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD005
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Celebration; Funeral; Secret Society; Status
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton cloth; cowrie shells; beads

The Lele people are a subgroup of the Kuba ethnic group of the Democratic Republic of Congo, inhabiting the Kasai River basin. They dance masked on many occasions, including festivals celebrating the mythical founding of the people and funerals of important individuals.  Lele masks have affinities with those of the Kuba people more generally, but they have a distinctive flattened face.  Cowrie shells and glass beads were valuable trade goods and their use denotes wealth and status.

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TITLE: Kuba Mukenga Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
SUBREGION: Western Kasai
ETHNICITY: Kuba
DESCRIPTION: Mukenga helmet mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD002
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Funeral; Secret Society; Status
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; glass beads; cowrie shells; leopard fur; thread; plant fiber; metal plating

The Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have several masks associated with royalty. The mukenga mask is associated with the highest status of the Babende initiation society through its invocation of the most powerful forest animals, the leopard and the elephant (note its trunk-like crest). Cowrie shells and glass beads were valuable trade goods and their use denotes wealth and status.

Mukenga masks are danced at funerals of titled nobility by members of the mukenga society. Because the mukenga masquerader has no vision (the helmet mask has no eye holes), attendants assist him to remain within the dance area. The mukenga dancer represents an important person visiting the village to pay respects to the deceased.

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TITLE: Baule Bo Nun Amuin
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Bo Nun Amuin Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI016
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Funeral; Protection; Social Control; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

The Baule are a relatively large ethnic group inhabiting the eastern Côte d’Ivoire and parts of Ghana. They have a variety of masking traditions, but their most religiously important is the bo nun amuin. Bo nun amuin, translated roughly “god risen from the bush,” are sacred masks worn only by men. They channel powerful bush spirits and as such are used at funerals of village notables, to protect the village from external threats, and to instill discipline and punishment on violators of customs, especially women. They are danced to the sound of a loud bull-roarer, to warn women and children not to watch.

In the past, bo nun amuin were kept in shrines outside of the village, but now are brought to bush shrines on the day before the dance. The men formerly appear naked before the masks to assure the spirit of their masculinity, but today they simply drop their pants when they approach the masks. Before crossing the shrine’s threshold palm wine or gin will be poured over it, and then spat onto the mask as an offering to the mask spirit. Before the 1970’s, war prisoners were sacrificed to the spirit, but today animals such as dogs or chickens are used.  The society eats the sacrificial meat, and then the heart and liver of the animal is spat on the mask as an offering. The dancer is bathed and puts on protective amulets, blade shaped bark around his hands and knees, and rattles on his feet. The society next evokes the spirit by singing, and the mask can then leave the shrine for the dance. After the dance, the men shout “k buno,” “go back to the bush,” to usher the potentially dangerous spirit out of the village.

Bo nun amuin masks have varied forms, but they tend to assume the form of a mythological beast combining attributes of an antelope and leopard, sometimes with anthropomorphic features as well. The resemblance to the kponyungo or “fire spitter” funerary mask of their Senufo neighbors is sometimes striking. This specific mask has the relatively unusual shape of an abstract, elongated warthog.

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TITLE: Yaure Lo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Yaure
DESCRIPTION: Lo Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI021
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Je Ceremony
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Yaure people of Côte d’Ivoire are avid and skilled wood carvers. They have two main types of masks, the yu spirit and the lo spirit, and both are used in the Je Ceremony at funerals.  The yu masqueraders dance first to convert the dangerous yu spirit from a threat to the village into its protector. Lo masks like this one are danced last and help release the spirit of the dead for its journey to the next world. Unlike the brightly painted yu masks, lo masks are left dark.

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TITLE: Igbo Agbogho Mmuo
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Nigeria
ETHNICITY: Igbo
DESCRIPTION: Agbogho Mmuo (Maiden Spirit) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFNG004
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Funeral; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment

The Igbo are a numerous people inhabiting southern Nigeria. They have a rich masking tradition based on their traditional religion, Odinani, the circumcision ritual of adulthood, and initiation into secret societies. The Agbogho Mmuo, or Maiden Spirit, is a helmet mask intended to represent the spirit of a beautiful female ancestor and is danced during the dry season as part of agricultural rituals, as well as during funerals of prominent members of the masking secret society.

The mask is worn by men only, who imitate the movements of a graceful female to music played on traditional drums and other instruments. Singers also participate and pay tribute to real and past girls. The whiteness of the mask does not idealize light skin, but instead indicates the spirit nature of the girl represented. The elaborate hair style with comb decorations is intended to enhance the beauty of the mask.

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TITLE: Yaqui Pasko’ola Mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Black and white Mañor mask with abstract design
CATALOG ID: LAMX126
MAKER: Antonio Bacasewa (Vicam)
CEREMONY: Pasko’ola
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment; funeral; protection
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: cottonwood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string; horse hair

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.

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TITLE: Dogon Dyommo
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Dogon
DESCRIPTION: Dyommo (hare) mask
CATALOG ID: AFML008
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Awa Society; Dama
FUNCTION: Entertainment; Funereal
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay

The Dogon people of Mali use a tremendous variety of masks, most of which center around funeral rites to usher the spirit of the dead from the village back to its proper place in the bush. Traditionally, the Awa Society controlled the use of masks. Some masks have an entertainment and story-telling function as well, such as this dyommo (hare) mask along with the dannana (hunter) masquerader. The dannana pretends to hunt several dyommo masqueraders, who hide among the spectators and escape. There are two species of hare that inhabit Dogon territory in Mali, both nocturnal: the African savanna hare (Lepus microtis) and the Cape hare (Lepus capensis). Such hares are so fast that the only animal capable of chasing them down is the cheetah.

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TITLE: Bamileke Buffalo
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Cameroon
ETHNICITY: Bamileke
DESCRIPTION: Buffalo Crest
CATALOG ID: AFCM003
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Status
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay

The Bamileke people of the Cameroon grasslands are closely related to their neighbors, the Babanki and Bamoun peoples, and have similar artistic styles. The Bamileke society is highly stratified by lineage, with certain royal lineages exclusively entitled to wear certain masks.  Lineage masks may represent persons, such as the kam, ngoin, or animals, and are used principally at funerals and annual harvest festivals. The kam mask is reserved for royalty and is the highest ranking mask, with ngoin, his wife, also highly ranked. Animal masks (other than the elephant) like this one are open to non-royal lineages to use.

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TITLE: Bamileke Helmet Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Cameroon
ETHNICITY: Bamileke
DESCRIPTION: Helmet Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCM002
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Status
AGE: late 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: none

The Bamileke people of the Cameroon grasslands are closely related to their neighbors, the Babanki and Bamoun peoples, and have similar artistic styles. The Bamileke society is highly stratified by lineage, with certain royal lineages exclusively entitled to wear certain masks.  Lineage masks may represent persons, such as the kam, ngoin, or animals, and are used principally at funerals and annual harvest festivals. The kam mask is reserved for royalty and is the highest ranking mask, with ngoin, his wife, also highly ranked. Helmet masks like this one are open to non-royal lineages to use.

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TITLE: Yaqui Pasko’ola Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Mañor mask in the shape of a moon
CATALOG ID: LAMX132
MAKER: Preciliano Rodríguez Cupis (Potám)
CEREMONY: Pasko’ola
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment; funeral; protection
AGE: 1993
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string; horse hair

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 specific mask represents an eagle’s beak and is unusual in the sparsity of symbols.

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