TITLE: Bamana N’tomo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bamana (Bambara)
DESCRIPTION: N’tomo Society Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Secret Society; Social Control; Status
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

The Bamana people, sometimes called Bambara, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Mali. They have six major secret societies of different levels of prestige that conduct adult initiation rituals. Initiates are taught survival skills, social customs, and religious principles. The N’tomo Society originally comprised only uncircumcised boys and teaches the virtues of silence and discipline. For this reason, the N’tomo Society masks tend to have small, closed mouths. This mask is unusual in having a serrated beak, evoking a predatory bird.

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TITLE: Bozo Sogo Kun
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bozo
DESCRIPTION: Sogo Kun Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Social Status
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; dyed cloth; plant fiber; hardware

The Bozo people of Mali inhabit the area along the Niger River and live predominantly by fishing. Many have been converted to Islam, but they nonetheless maintain animist beliefs and masking traditions today. Unlike other west and central African peoples, however, the Bozo do not use masks for important spiritual functions so much as for entertainment.  Masks and associated puppets (sometimes, the two are combined) entertain the village and raise the dancer’s social status through demonstrations of skill in mask making and dancing.

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TITLE: Bamana N’tomo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bamana (Bambara)
DESCRIPTION: N’tomo Society Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Secret Society; Social Control; Status
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; hardware

The Bamana people, sometimes called Bambara, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Mali. They have six major secret societies of different levels of prestige that conduct adult initiation rituals. Initiates are taught survival skills, social customs, and religious principles. The N’tomo Society originally comprised only uncircumcised boys and teaches the virtues of silence and discipline. For this reason, the N’tomo Society masks tend to have small, closed mouths.

Many Bamana masks also have brass plating, unlike this one.  Blacksmithing and metallurgy play an important role in the N’tomo Society, so a brass covering greatly increases the status of a mask. However, the Bamana people, like many African peoples, are also fond of bright colors and use paint to increase the appeal of their masks.

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TITLE: Dogon Dyommo
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Dogon
DESCRIPTION: Dyommo (hare) Mask
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: Marka N’tomo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Marka
DESCRIPTION: N’tomo Society Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Secret Society; Social Control; Status
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; dyed string; nails

The Marka people number about 25,000 individuals and are part of the Soninke ethnic group.  They inhabit northwest Mali and combine Muslim and animist traditions.

They have six major secret societies of different levels of prestige that conduct adult initiation rituals. Initiates are taught survival skills, social customs, and religious principles. The N’tomo Society originally comprised only uncircumcised boys and teaches the virtues of silence and discipline. For this reason, the N’tomo Society masks tend to have small, closed mouths.

Marka masking traditions closely resemble  those of their Bamana neighbors, with copper, brass or tin sheeting commonly used. Blacksmithing and metallurgy play an important role in the N’tomo Society, so the metal covering greatly increases the status of a mask.

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TITLE: Bamana Chi Wara
TYPE: crown mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bamana (Bambara)
DESCRIPTION: Chi Wara Bamako Crest
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Initiation; Social Control; Status
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: leather; dyed cotton string; animal hair; wicker basketry

The Bamana people, sometimes called Bambara, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Mali. They have six major secret societies of different levels of prestige that conduct adult initiation rituals. Initiates are taught survival skills, social customs, and religious principles. The Chi Wara Society dances using crest masks only and teaches social values and agricultural techniques.

The Chi Wara itself typically takes the form of a roan antelope crossed with a human. The character itself is supposed to represent a culture hero born of the sky goddess (Mousso Koroni) and an earth god in the shape of a cobra. The Chi Wara taught the Bamana to sow and harvest crops.

There are four major kinds of Chi Wara: the Bougouni Southern; the Segu Northern; the Bamako Northern; and the Sikasso. This specific mask represents the third style of Chi Wara, the Bamako from the northern region, and depicts a male.

The Chi Wara is danced in male and female pairs, with each wearing a full suit of raffia fiber and the crest mounted on a basket (as here) that sits atop the dancer’s head. The male dancer leads, leaping like an antelope and scratching the ground with a staff to illustrate the teaching of agriculture. The female follows behind and fans the male to spread his powers to the village.

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TITLE: Bamana N’tomo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bamana (Bambara)
DESCRIPTION: N’tomo Society Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Secret Society; Social Control; Status
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: brass sheet; nails; cowrie shells; dyed string

The Bamana people, sometimes called Bambara, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Mali. They have six major secret societies of different levels of prestige that conduct adult initiation rituals. Initiates are taught survival skills, social customs, and religious principles. The N’tomo Society originally comprised only uncircumcised boys and teaches the virtues of silence and discipline. For this reason, the N’tomo Society masks tend to have small, closed mouths.

Many Bamana masks also have brass plating, like this one.  Blacksmithing and metallurgy play an important role in the N’tomo Society, so a brass covering greatly increases the status of a mask.

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TITLE: Dogon Satimbe Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Dogon
DESCRIPTION: Satimbe Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Dama
FUNCTION: Funeral
AGE: 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: ebony wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass beads; cowrie shells; hair; cotton string; 1919 British West Africa penny; bronze bell

The Dogon people of Mali use a tremendous variety of masks, most of which center around funeral rites. Traditionally, the Awa Society controlled the use of masks. This mask represents Yayemme, the first woman to discover the mystical use of masks, and Yasigi, a female character from Dogon creation myths who served beer at the first Dogon sigi celebration.  It is used in funerals to usher the spirit of the dead from the village back to its proper place in the bush.

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