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Senufo Helmet Mask Janus and Female Figure African Art

Product #: 91764
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Title Senufo Helmet Mask Janus and Female Figure African Art
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin Ivory Coast or Mali
People Senufo
Materials Wood, pigment
Approximate Age Second half 20th Century
Dimensions 21 Inches tall x 10.5 inches W. x 8.5 inches D.
Overall Condition Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners.   Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use.  We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings.  Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.
Damage/Repair crack in figure's head along one side of the face, wear in places, chipped nipple

Additional Information:  A fascinating Senufo helmet mask surmounted by a standing female figure . Around the  helmet , in the back and front sides, are two human face masks and two abstract faces showing eyes only. The standing figure hold the horns of the masks.

 The iconography of the animal horn on the forehead and the figures on the top of the head are common symbolic motifs on the Senufo masks and the brown darkened overall finish is also known.  The human face horned masks have similarities to Kpelie, Kepelie or Kpeli-yehe masks

 This mask is known as a “funeral head mask,” worn by senior members of Poro at funerals of deceased and honored members. This mask was most probably used by farmers among the Senufo and it was worn on the head when danced. The combination of  human and animal traits is typical of the Senufo mask. The horns symbolize   power. The figure on the top of this mask would be associated with the original primordial creatures created by God.  The female figure may refer to Tykpa or tykepa figure or she could be identified as  a Yasungo, a shrine figure  representing the first  female ancestor. She described as a young woman in her prime as evident from her high breasts and facial and body scarification. 

The Senufo live in the Ivory Coast and southern Mali in small villages supporting themselves primarily as farmers. Though generally independent, the villages are joined through a shared male’s secret society known as Poro or Pondo, which is responsible for the initiation of young boys and men and for instruction in the religious wisdom and knowledge of the bush spirits.


Recommended Reading:

Goldwater, R. “Senufo Sculpture from West Africa." (1964); Glaze, Anita J. “Art and Death in a Senufo Village." (1981); Forster, T.,  Die Kunst Der Senufo, Museum Rietberg Zurich. 1988; Forster, T. H.-J. Koloss, Der Kunst Der Senufo. 1990; Meyer, P., Kunst und Religion der Lobi, Museum Reitberg Zurich.1981.

I have examined this piece and agree with the description.

Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.