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Cabinet V: Shelf 2

African Miniature Masks

The English word “mask” suggests an object that is placed in front of the face, obscuring it and transforming the wearer in some way, but not all masks transform the wearer in African masking traditions. In the case of the Bembe masks called alungaand emangungu the idea of transformation is apt: the alunga mask, associated with the Alunga association of initiated men, was thought to embody forest spirits, and emangungu masks were used in the initiation rites of young men, who would wear them when they ventured out, heavily disguised, to solicit offerings of food in nearby villages during a year-long period of seclusion in the bush. But in other masking traditions, including those that produced the miniature masks seen here, the (often male) wearer was not necessarily transformed into something or someone else. While many African masks are worn in front of the face or on top of the head and are intended to cover the wearer’s face, the small masks prevalent among the Lega and neighboring peoples are either attached to the arms or the side of the head, or not worn at all, but instead stacked in piles, hung on fences, displayed on the ground and specially constructed racks, or handled by performers.

Wooden mask in a triangular shape with rounded edges. There are two almond-shaped holes for eyes and spiral horns protrude from the top of the mask. There are traces of red pigment below the eyes and white pigment outlines the center of the mask.
Ogoni
Mask
1950 – 1980
wood, metal
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron
2001/2.30
Songye
Miniature Mask
20th century
wood with white and black pigments and raffia
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis
1997/1.347
This bold and dramatic wooden Pende <em>mbangu</em> mask features a half-white, half-black face with a contorted visage.  The face has been carved in such a way that the features appearing on the left side, which has been pigmented black, are either positioned lower (the left ear and eye) or droop downwards (left sides of the nose and mouth). Moreover, the black portion of the face features several indentations representing scars. The resulting visual effect is one of facial asymmetry. A thick layer of white and black pigment has been applied to the face’s wooden surface, while black raffia fibers have been tightly woven onto a vegetable fiber cloth on the black half of the mask, completing the look.
Pende
Mask
1925 – 1935
wood, pigments, vegetable fiber, raffia
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.200
Makonde
Helmet;Mask
wood, horse hair, human hair
8 11/16 in x 10 5/8 in x 7 1/16 in (22 cm x 27 cm x 18 cm)
Gift of Prof. and Mrs. Horace M. Miner
This wooden, zoomorphic Bembe <em>alunga</em> mask represents an owl. The mask has an elongated, bell-shaped form, with much of its base pigmented black. The owl has two white, oval-shaped, concave oracular cavities with protruding, half-moon eyes and a long, narrow beak. The foot of the mask features two serpents that have been carved in relief and painted red, both of which are surrounded by white, geometric motifs.  
Bembe
Mask
1925 – 1935
wood, pigment
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.194
This ovoid, wooden Bembe mask depicts a human face. The right half of the face, however, has been painted black, creating a bifurcated appearance. Its facial characteristics include large, almond-shape eyes set in rounded, ocular cavities; a slender nose; and, an open mouth painted white. Most striking, however, are the long, black and white porcupine quills that have been carefully tied around the mask’s perimeter, yielding a dramatic, formidable look.
Bembe
Mask
1935 – 1945
wood, porcupine quills, pigment, raffia
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.195
Bamum
Maskette
bronze
6 7/8 in x 4 5/16 in x 2 1/16 in (17.5 cm x 10.9 cm x 5.3 cm)
Gift of Prof. and Mrs. Horace M. Miner
Bamana
N'tomo Society Initiation Mask
wood with black incrustation
15 3/16 in x 5 3/16 in x 8 in (38.5 cm x 13.1 cm x 20.4 cm)
Museum purchase assisted by the Friends of the Museum of Art
Wooden mask in the form of a human face. The mouth is open and the chin has traces of hair attached. The eyes are set close together with a raised brow ridge and diagonal lines on each cheek. Next to each eye is a set of raised marks. The ears are small and rectangular. The hair is in a tri-lobal style, in some places covered with human hair. 
Mask
20th century
wood, human hair, pigment
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis
1997/1.338

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Part of 1 Learning Collection

Cabinet A: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet A: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet A: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet B: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet B: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet B: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet C: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet C: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet C: Shelf 3
<p>Inkwells </p>

Cabinet D: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet D: Shelf 2
<p>Inkwells </p>

Cabinet D: Shelf 3
<p>Inkwells </p>

Cabinet E: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the James Marshall Plumer Collec...

Cabinet E: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the James Marshall Plumer Collec...

Cabinet E: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the James Marshall Plumer Collec...

Cabinet F: Shelf 1
<p>Mortuary Art from China </p>

Cabinet F: Shelf 2
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet F: Shelf 3
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet G: Shelf 1
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet G: Shelf 2
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet G: Shelf 3 
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet H: Shelf 1
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet H: Shelf 2
<p>Mortuary Art from China </p>

Cabinet H: Shelf 3
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet I: Shelf 1
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet I: Shelf 2
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet I: Shelf 3
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet J: Shelf 1
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet J: Shelf 2
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet J: Shelf 3
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet K: Shelf 1
<p>Religious Sculpture from India</p>

Cabinet K: Shelf 2
<p>Religious Sculpture from India</p>

Cabinet K: Shelf 3
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet L: Shelf 1
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet L: Shelf 2
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet L: Shelf 3
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet M: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Dora and William Hunter Coll...

Cabinet M: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Dora and William Hunter Coll...

Cabinet M: Shelf 3
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet N: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Margaret Watson Parker Colle...

Cabinet N: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Margaret Watson Parker Colle...

Cabinet N: Shelf 3
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet O: Shelf 1
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet O: Shelf 2
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet O: Shelf 3
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet P: Shelf 1
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet P: Shelf 2
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet P: Shelf 3
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet Q: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Ellen and Richard Laing Coll...

Cabinet Q: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Ellen and Richard Laing Coll...

Cabinet Q: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Ellen and Richard Laing Coll...

Cabinet Q: Shelf 4
<p>American Plaster Casts</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 1
<p>American Plaster Casts</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 2
<p>Apostle Spoons and American Silver</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 3
<p>Modernist Glass and American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 4
<p>American Plaster Casts</p>

Cabinet S: Shelf 1
<p>American Silver</p>

Cabinet S: Shelf 2
<p>Tiffany Glass</p>

Cabinet S: Shelf 3
<p>American Silver</p>

Cabinet T: Shelf 1
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet T: Shelf 2
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet T: Shelf 3
<p>Native American Art</p>

Cabinet U: Shelf 1
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet U: Shelf 2
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet U: Shelf 3
<p>Native American Art</p>

Cabinet V: Shelf 1
<p>The Human Figure in African Art</p>

Cabinet V: Shelf 2
<p>African Miniature Masks</p>

Cabinet V: Shelf 3
<p>African Masks and Masquerades</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 1
<p>The Head in African Art</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Helmut Stern Collection</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Helmut Stern Collection</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 4
<p>African Masks and Masquerades</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 1
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 2
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 3
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 4
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Fusfeld Art Collection</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 2
<p>Contemporary Art</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 3
<p>Contemporary Art</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 4
<p>Contemporary Art</p>

9 Collection Object Sources

Mask (2001/2.30)
Miniature Mask (1997/1.347)
Mask (2005/1.200)
Helmet;Mask (1984/1.262)
Mask (2005/1.194)
Mask (2005/1.195)
Maskette (1983/2.196)
Mask (1997/1.338)

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Last Updated

June 8, 2020 2:29 p.m.

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