Face Mask (Kpeliye'e)

Date: 19th–mid-20th century

Geography: Côte d'Ivoire, northern Côte d'Ivoire

Culture: Senufo peoples

Medium: Wood, horns, raffia fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material

Dimensions: H. 30 1/4 x W. 13 x D. 9 in. (76.8 x 33 x 22.9 cm)

Classification: Wood-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965

Accession Number: 1978.412.489


Throughout the twentieth century, members of poro, a Senufo initiation association, wore small, finely carved face masks as insignia. The masks, known as kpeliye'e, feature delicate oval faces with geometric projections at the sides. Raised and incised scarification patterns ornament their smooth, glossy surfaces. Considered feminine, the masks honor deceased Senufo elders with their grace and beauty. They provide a complement to the aggressive Senufo helmet masks also sponsored by fraternal organizations in the region. The feathers and animal horns attached to this example are unusual, and may have reflected its owner's power to counteract negative forces in the community.