Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Headdress: Antelope (Adoné)

19th–20th century
Burkina Faso, Northern region
Kurumba peoples
Wood, pigment
H. 42 3/8 x W. 8 1/2 x D. 19 3/8 in.(107.6 x 21.6 x 49.2cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
Relatively naturalistic antelope headdresses known as adoné are primarily attributed to the northernmost Kurumba region of Burkina Faso, which encompasses the towns of Toulfe, Djibo, and Aribinda. Leadership in these communities has traditionally been decentralized, with lineages of the same clan living together in large neighborhoods. Adoné related intimately to the lives of these extended families; it is possible they were commissioned to honor the memories of leading elders upon their deaths. During the sacrifices made to inaugurate such a work, it was given the name of the deceased and became a memorial infused with its own life force. Adoné may also have served as sites for offerings and prayers to the ancestors as well as visual highlights of a series of honorific performances. They could be used as portable altars or placed on an existing altar in the ancestral spirit house within a family compound. When danced in performance, they were worn on the top of the head as crests.

The appearance of adoné generally accompanied three major annual events. They represented clan ancestors when the bodies of male and female elders were led to burial; they served as tributes to those deceased elders at commemorative celebrations organized during the dry season; and they were celebratory emblems at collective sacrifices, held just before the first rains in late May and June, which paid homage to the spirits of the ancestors and to the protective antelope that is the totem of most Kurumba clans.

The design of these graceful antelope forms emphasizes the slender features of the animal's horns, neck, and snout. Typically the surface is enlivened with extensive geometric patterns of brilliant ocher brown, red, yellow, and kaolin pigments. In this example, the antelope's neck is relatively long, and the graceful sweep of the horns rising from the top of the head is echoed by the long ears. Black and white pigments have been applied to the surface in a checkerboard pattern along the neck and in broad horizontal stripes along the horns and muzzle. Red is used to accent parts of the inner ears and in the passages of white.
[Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, until 1963]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1963, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978

LaGamma, Alisa. Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture. New York, New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002, 28, 65-66.

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