Plank Mask (Nwantantay), Wood, pigment, fiber, Bwa peoples

Plank Mask (Nwantantay)

19th–20th century
Burkina Faso, Black Volta River region
Bwa peoples
Wood, pigment, fiber
H. 72 x W. 11 1/8 x D. 10 1/4 in. (182.9 x 28.2 x 26 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1964
Accession Number:
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.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1952]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1952, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1964; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

Museum of Primitive Art. Traditional Art of the African Nations in the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: University Publishers, Inc., 1961, no. 12.

Roy, Christopher D. Art of the Upper Volta Rivers. Meudon: Alain et Francoise Chaffin, 1987.