19 Items in this Learning Collection
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object

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Human Puppet Head

Accession Number

Human Puppet Head


Artist Nationality

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
wood, sheet metal, cloth and pigment

19 1/16 in x 8 1/4 in x 10 1/4 in (48.5 cm x 21 cm x 26 cm);19 1/16 in x 8 1/4 in x 10 1/4 in (48.5 cm x 21 cm x 26 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 carved puppet head is part of the repertory of characters 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. See also 1971/2.22 and 1971/2.23.

Physical Description
A stylized rendering of a human face with long narrow nose, round eyes set close to bridge of nose, and open, ellipitical mouth. The head is carved in shape of a coiffure that resembles a helmet which extends down the sides of the head. The head is topped with a high arched sagital crest. Patina is dark brown in color with traces of red and blue pigment. Sheet metal cut in circles and long strips embellish the top of the head.

Primary Object Classification

Collection Area

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heads (animal components)
puppet theaters (structures)
puppets (recreational artifacts)
satire (artistic device)

& Author Notes

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