Hyena Puppet Head (Nama, Sogu kun)

Accession Number

Hyena Puppet Head (Nama, Sogu kun)


Artist Nationality

Object Creation Date
circa 1950

Medium & Support
wood, sheet metal

15 1/16 in x 4 3/4 in x 4 15/16 in (38.3 cm x 12 cm x 12.5 cm);15 1/16 in x 4 3/4 in x 4 15/16 in (38.3 cm x 12 cm x 12.5 cm);14 3/8 in x 4 3/4 in x 9 13/16 in (36.5 cm x 12 cm x 25 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase assisted by the Friends of the Museum of Art

Label copy
March 28, 2009
These whimsical puppet heads are featured in Sogo bò, a masquerade performed by youth organizations in south central Mali. Active since the late nineteenth century, puppet masquerades have provided young performers with a rich inheritance of plots and characters from which to create their own repertoires. Indeed, Sogo bò remains an important dramatic venue through which the young can explore the creative tensions between traditional values and contemporary experience.
The human head may be used to impersonate legendary characters, or satirize everyday life and relationships to the community. The ram and the hyena are among the oldest and most favored characters. With its short upright ears and prominent teeth, this hyena is a typical example of Bamana stylization, while the placid face and curving horns of the ram are a more naturalistic rendering. During performance, the heads are mounted on poles attached to sheets of cloth that drape over the performers.

Subject matter
This hyena rod puppet head is a character featured in the Sogo bò, a puppet masquerade performed by Bamana youth organizations. Still active today, Sogo bò--literally, “the animal comes forth”-- is an important dramatic venue for youth to explore and comment on the tensions between traditional values and contemporary experience. The hyena is especially rich in cultural associations. Depending on the story or subject being performed, he may represent shamelessness, cunning, the inflexibility of custom, even the power to heal.

Physical Description
Stylized wood carving of hyena head; two pieces of wood joined to form articulating jaw. edged with prominent teeth. short upright ears, long triangular nose or snout; eyes, teeth, nose and crown of head overlaid with sheet metal. Wood is unpainted.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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heads (animal components)
rod puppets
wood (plant material)

1 Related Resource

(Part of 4 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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