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Toma

Location: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
Population: 200,000

Arts: The Toma, who number about 200,000, occupy high-altitude rain forests in widely-scattered villages in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Like many cultures living in the area, their political and religious life is regulated by the men's "poro" society. This society is responsible for the initiation of young boys, among other things. These initiations take place in the forest, and masks known as "landai" are used to summon the young men to the forest for their month-long journey into manhood. These masks were also used to conclude the ordeal, symbolically "eating" the boys, leaving them as men, new members of adult society. The Toma are known almost exclusively for these abstract "landai" masks, These masks are characterized by a rather blank face, with round holes for eyes, and a dramatic horizontal brow. There is usually a simple, vertical nose and, frequently, no mouth. There are a few staffs and canes known, usually identified by the use of finials which feature a "landai" mask-like face. A careful search of the literature yielded no useful information on Toma history.


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