Face Mask (Kpeliye'e)

Senufo peoples

Not on view

Finely carved face masks were popular in northern Côte d'Ivoire by the early twentieth century. The Belgian art historian Albert Maesen collected a comparable mask when he did fieldwork on Senufo arts in northern Côte d'Ivoire just before the outbreak of World War II. Maesen identified the form as kulié, or "face of the dead." He observed that families owned kulié masks and used them in public dances during agricultural celebrations and funerary ceremonies. Poro associations then also maintained similar face masks to honor deceased members in performances restricted to men. Maesen contrasted the restrained movements of the masqueraders at the events open to all to the more energetic dance of the poro masks in front of select audiences. Sculptors in the region carved face masks throughout the twentieth century. The term kpeliye'e, or "face of the jumping performer," refers to the dynamic performances audiences have continued to associate with the mask. Often centerpieces of entertaining theaters, face masks offer a counterpoint to the region's larger, more combative zoomorphic helmet masks.

Face Mask (Kpeliye'e), Wood, Senufo peoples

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.