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Grebo Back Mask Sande Society African Art 34 Inch

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Title Grebo Back Mask Sande Society African Art 34 Inch
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin Liberia
People Grebo
Materials Wood, pigment, cloth
Approximate Age 20th century
Height (in) 34
Width (in) 12
Depth (in) 6
Overall Condition Good
Damage/Repair Arrested bug damage to bottom and back, splits though face

Additional Information: This large and expressive carved mask represents a mysterious part of Grebo culture seldom seen to outsiders. It obvioulsy represents a woman, as evidenced by the essentuated breasts. Art traders indicated that this style of masks is used by the secret womens society, Sande. They are danced by women, worn on the back, at celebrations of marriage, anniversary, and pregnancy.

Grebo masks are best known for their influence on early western modern art being found in the collection of Picasso who obtained a Grebo mask from his dealer Kahnweiler in Paris. There is no doubt as to the influence of the Grebo style mask upon the development of western art for they are a complete example of geometry in sculpture with the large face, square mouth, large forehead, strong nose and tubular eyes.

The Grebo live in southeast Liberia at the border with the Ivory Coast, with the Bassa people on their west and the Bete and We to their east in the Ivory Coast. Little is known about the use of masks among the Grebo other than the fact that they are said to have been worn during wars by leaders as a kind of military costume.

Recommended Reading:

see: G.W. Harley, "Masks as Agents of Social Control in Northeast Liberia (1950) W.C. Siegmann and C.E. Schmidt, "Rock of the Ancestors" (1977).

Jacques Kerchache et al. ART OF AFRICA