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Cabinet W: Shelf 4

African Masks and Masquerades

The objects in this case might seem whole and complete, but an argument could be made that they are no more than fragments of the larger artistic and ritual traditions of which they were originally part. Whether used in initiation ceremonies or during funerary rites, masks were always part of a performance in which music, dance, motion, costume, sound, smell, and the play of light and shadow all contributed to the overall effect. The multi-sensory spectacles that are masquerades include the architecture and physical space of the village, the spectacle of story and music, the scenes and steps of the performance, and the active participation of the audience.

Masquerade performances can serve a variety of functions in African cultures. They might reinforce social norms and moral ideals, as in the case of the Kuba mask called “Ngaady Mwaash,” a female mask whose fluid gestures and graceful performance style form a stark contrast to the aggressive style and flamboyant leg and torso movements of her male counterpart. The masks and masquerades of the culturally, ethnically, and politically diverse Igala state in Nigeria, on the other hand, represent the spiritual relationship among living members of the community and the ancestors, while also evoking the connection between the monarchy and the indigenous population. In contemporary society masks have also acquired new meanings as ethnic symbols. Whether alluding to social roles or moral and religious truths, masquerading performances also delight and entertain their audiences; in new global contexts many of them even do so as revenue-generating practices performed for tourists.

This set of bellows features an elegantly carved male head as a finial. Sitting atop a cylindrical neck that has been pierced with a metal ring, the polished male head features an ovoid face; a high forehead with a vertical line; scarified lines across the cheekbones; and, a coiffure with a finely, detailed pattern at the front and parted down the center.<br />
The man’s “torso” is a trapezoidal piece of wood while two long iron rods functioning as handles represent his “legs.” A pair of round chambers—one on each side of his torso—would originally have had leather bags attached to them, allowing for the pumping of air to heat a fire or forge.
Luba
Bellows
1925 – 1935
wood, iron
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.217
Punu
mask
wood and pigment
Gift of Robert B. Jacobs
1991/2.107
This woodcarved figure depicts a female with a large bowl-shaped vessel upon the crown of her head, intended to be a container for symbolic, medicinal and spirit “activating” ingredients. Representative of the Kasongo style (regarded as the “classical” or “pure” Kusu stylistic form), this <em>kakudji</em> features an inverted, triangular-shaped head, a wide, convex forehead, high ears, cowrie shell eyes, a triangular nose, an oval mouth with protruding lips, a pointed chin, and conical breasts. The figure possesses a prominent belly indicating pregnancy, and representing the themes of maternity, fertility, and the continuation of the lineage. A large piece of textured cloth tied in place with rope encircles the female’s lower arms and lower body.
Kusu
Power Figure
1925 – 1935
wood, cowrie shells, string, animal skin, cloth
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.222
African
Mask with Seven Feathers
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Schultz
2008/2.190
This standing female <em>nkisi mihasi</em>, or “benevolent” power figure, exhibits many of the typical traits associated with the Luba of the Upemba Basin, and more specifically, with the Kisale center of production. These features include a disproportionately elongated torso, terraced coiffure, diamond-shaped scarification patterns covering the abdomen and back, and, a crescent moon symbol on the pubis. In addition, this figure possesses a round head with almond-shaped eyes, an open mouth, flat and level shoulders, protruding breasts and bellybutton, and horizontal lines across its upper thighs. Multiple strands of white, dark blue, and light blue beads adorn the figure’s neck, upper chest, wrist, hips, and ankle. A cotton loincloth has been wrapped around the figure’s hips.
Luba
Power Figure
1885 – 1895
wood, beads, cotton cloth, string
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.212

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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>

5 Collection Object Sources

Bellows (2005/1.217)
mask (1991/2.107)
Power Figure (2005/1.222)
Power Figure (2005/1.212)

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Last Updated

June 8, 2020 2:52 p.m.

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