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
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
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.
Collected by the Catholic Mission of Ferkessédougou in the 1950s; [Charles Ratton, Paris, until 1964]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1964–1978

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. 298.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 96.

Green, Kathryn L. "Shared Masking Traditions in Northeastern Ivory Coast." African Arts vol. 20, no.4 (August 1987), pp. 62-92.

Förster, Till. Die Kunst der Senufo: Museum Rietberg Zürich aus Schweizer Sammlungen. Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 1988, pp. 29-32.

Bochet, Gilbert. "The Poro of the Senufo." In Art of Côte d'Ivoire from the collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, edited by Jean-Paul Barbier. Vol. vol. 1. Geneva: Musée Barbier-Mueller, 1993.

Veirman, Anja. "'Here a boy always becomes a sculptor, like his father': Albert Maesen and the Study of the Art of the Senufo." In Frans M. Olbrechts, 1899–1958: In Search of Art in Africa, edited by Constantine Petridis. Antwerp: Etnografisch Museum, 2001.