Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Buffalo Helmet Mask (Kablé)

19th–early 20th century
Burkina Faso, Province du Kénédougou
Northern Tussian or Siemu
Wood, cane, fiber ropes
H. 27 1/2 x W. 14 3/4 x D. 11 7/8in. (69.9 x 37.5 x 30.2cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
Initiation into the powerful Dó association is central to spiritual and social practices of Tussian culture in Burkina Faso. In preparation for its most important event that occurs only every forty years, initiates stay in seclusion for three months. They are in turn given the names of a variety of animals associated with tutelary spirits represented through mask forms. These masks become the property of the newly named initiates. This highly abstract and whimsical example consists of a wooden helmet surmounted by a stylized representation of a buffalo, an animal associated with ideas of leadership and prestige. A zigzag representation of a bird associated with Dó’s leadership, is featured at back.
[John J. Klejman, New York, until 1954]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1954, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978

Bulletin de la vie artistique (August 15, 1924), p. 356,

Masterpieces of African Art. New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1954, 23.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 292.

Roy, Christopher D. African sculpture: The Stanley collection. Iowa City: University of Iowa Museum of Art, 1979.

Trost, Franz. "Bemerkungen zur religiosen organization der Tussian." Archiv für Völkerkunde vol. 40 (1986), pp. 99–114.

Nooter, Nancy Ingram, and Warren Robbins. African Art in American Collections: Survey 1989. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989, no. 140.

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