TITLE: Marka N’tomo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
DESCRIPTION: N’tomo Society Mask
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.