Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Helmet Mask: Hornbill (Kuma)

Date:
19th–20th century
Geography:
Burkina Faso, Black Volta River
Culture:
Bobo
Medium:
Wood, pigment
Dimensions:
H . 29 1/2 x W. 28 1/4in. (74.9 x 71.8cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of the American Friends of the Israel Museum, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.286
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
The imagery found in masks of the Bobo, Bwa, Kurumba, Mossi, and others living in Burkina Faso commonly combine the stylized features of humans, animals, and even insects. Bold geometric shapes repeated in brightly painted designs enliven the surfaces of these relatively abstract forms. When used in performances the masks embody nature or ancestor spirits that interact with human beings and influence their lives. They appear at important funerals to honor the dead and escort the deceased's soul to the world beyond. They also dance at agricultural festivities to ensure the proper progression of the seasons, and at initiation rituals to help introduce young men and women to the secrets and responsibilities of adulthood.
Jay C. Leff, Uniontown, Pa.; Martin and Faith-Dorian Wright, N.Y.; American Friends of the Israel Museum, New York, until 1975

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