Guinea or Mali or Burkina Faso or Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa
Komo or Koma Power Association
Wood, bird skull, porcupine quills, horns, nails, cotton, -sacrificial material
H x W x D: 21 5/8 x 12 3/4 x 28 7/8in. (54.9 x 32.4 x 73.3cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Not on view
Leaders of the kòmò power association commission blacksmith-sculptors to carve wooden helmet masks for them. Regarded for their abilities to transform materials and fashion objects in metal and wood, the artists use several tools to convert a single piece of wood into the image of a fearsome creature's head with wide, gaping jaws. Animal horns, bird skull, porcupine quills, feathers, bundles, and a thick grayish coating cover the head of kòmò, or kòmòkun, shown here. In the competitive realm of power associations, where each expert seeks to distinguish himself from his colleagues and advertise his skills, kòmòkunw (plural) vary to reflect the unique knowledge that their owners garner through exchange and experience. Terrifying forms and potentially harmful materials contribute to the awesome power that the helmet masks express.
[Aaron Furman Gallery, New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, 1959–1978