Additional Information: Mask – Kpan or Mblo Portrait mask. Baule Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire). This mask from the Baule people of the Ivory Coast falls into a special grouping known as ‘portrait masks’, Kpan or Mblo. They are said to portray an honored person of the village who is celebrated during a ceremonial dance known as “Mblo”. It is an aesthetic performance in which this beautifully carved mask would be worn with a multicolored costume and danced in the most graceful manner by either the person it represents or a relative. The costume would have been attached to the mask by cords that was threaded through the holes at the back of the mask. These masks are danced to entertain during days that the Baule do not work and they will also appear to honor important visitors to the village. This classic mask recalls the artistry of the Baule artists of the past. The refined and finally carved face may be similar to the person for whom the mask was originally carved to represent. The hair or headdress on this mask is presented by a high chignon raised from the forehead. The closed eyes and pursed mouth indicate propriety and respect in keeping the eyes downcast with a sense of reserve that a mature woman will cultivate. The slight scarification along the forehead, on the eyes area may be for magical purposes or to submit to the idea of an aesthetic statement. The reserved and enigmatic facial expression, the acute attention to detail and the high quality of carving all indicate that this is a classic example of Baule Art executed after an earlier style.
- P. L. Ravenhill, Baule Statuary Art: Meaning and Modernization, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Working Paper 5 (Philadelphia, 1980)
- P. L. Ravenhill, Dreams and Reverie. Images of Otherworld Mates Among the Baule, West Africa, Smithsonian Institution Press.Washington. London, 1996
- S. M. Vogel, Beauty in the Eyes of the Baule: Aesthetics and Cultural Values, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Working Paper 6 (Philadelphia,1980)
- S. M. Vogel, Baule, African Art Western Eyes.Yale University Press. New Haven. London, 1997