Kòmò Helmet Mask (Kòmòkun), 19th–mid–20th century
Wood, bird skull, porcupine quills, horns, cotton, sacrificial materials
H. 13 7/8 in. (35.2 cm), W. 8 11/16 in. (22.1 cm), D. 33 11/16 in. (85.6 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.150)
As part of their commitment to combating violence and protecting communities across West Africa, kòmò associations sponsor dynamic performances distinguished by music and masquerade. Performers wear heads of kòmò, or kòmòkunw (sing.: kòmòkun), similar to the one shown here, and full-body outfits constructed from locally produced cotton and bird feathers. They position the helmets so that the long mouths extend outward from their foreheads. The masqueraders carefully balance the wooden masks as they move to prevent them from crashing to the ground. During nightlong performances, kòmò experts reinforce their authority as they identify malevolent forces, track down criminals, and offer individuals solutions to their problems.