Lipiko Mask, Makonde Culture, from Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique, 19th Century
Lipiko masks are used by the Makonde at boys’ and girls’ initiation ceremonies to represent spirits. The masks are noteworthy for their realism, each depicting details of a particular facial type and hairstyle. Lipiko masks are often caricatures representing members of neighboring groups, religious leaders, and colonial officials.
Mwaash aMbooy Mask, Bushoong Kuba Culture, from Lulua Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th or early 20th century
Moshambwooy masks are worn by the nyimi, or king, of the Kuba or by chiefs in villages. The nyimi's mask is usually made of leopard skin, while those of chiefs are made of antelope skin. The face of this mask is probably antelope skin painted with a design to look like leopard's fur. The nose and ears are carved of wood, and the white beard of fur from the chest of a sheep represents the beard of an old man.
Mask (Kpeliye'e), Senufo Culture, from Ivory Coast, late 19th or early 20th century
Elephant Mask (Glao/Klolo), Baule Culture, from Lacs, N’zi Comoe, or Valle du Bandama Region, Ivory Coast, late 19th century
Mask (Kple-Kple), Baule Culture, from Ivory Coast, 19th century
Gelede Mask, Yoruba Culture, from Nigeria, Late 19th Century
Mask, Ngbaka; Possibly Banja Culture, from Nord-Ubangi Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th Century
Although little information exists concerning the masking traditions of the many ethnic groups of the Ubangi region in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, masks were likely used during the activities which surrounded boys' initiations and circumcisions. Masks from the region can be identified by their characteristics scarification marks: rows of bumps or incisions running across the forehead and down the bridge of the nose, sometimes extending to the chin.
Ndeemba Mask for N-khanda Initiation, Yaka Culture, from Kwango or Kwilu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, early 20th century
Several types of masks are used in dances celebrating the emergence of young initiates from the Yaka circumcision camp, where boys are ritually received into Yaka manhood. Initiates hold n-khanda masks like this one to celebrate their new status as men.
Koma Ba Mask, Mau Culture, from Ivory Coast, late 19th-early 20th century
Mask (Von Gla), We Culture, from Montagnes or Moyen Cavally Region, Ivory Coast, late 19th or early 20th century
Medium: Wood, metal, fur, fiber, hair, leopard’s teeth, pigment
This mask combines many diverse materials to create an image of power. Multiple eyes, warthog tusks, large teeth, and other power symbols such as rifle casings and a beard of authentic and wooden leopard’s teeth form a fierce countenance that frightens away negative forces.
Mask (Lukwakongo), Lega Culture, from Sud-Kivu or Maniema Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th or 20th century
Miniature wooden masks constitute some of the most important insignia of the second-highest grade of Bwami. Generally these miniature masks, known as lukwakongo, have a heart-shaped face framed by a line formed by the nose, the eyebrows, and the planes of the cheeks. The face is whitened with clay, while the forehead and edges characteristically have a glossy brown patina. The holes running around the lower edge of this mask would originally have held a beard made of liana fibers. Lukwakongo are never worn on the face, but are instead tied to the arm or displayed on a fence at Bwami meetings.
Mask, Yoruba Culture, from Kete Krachi, Volta Region, Ghana, ca, 1910
Artist: Ali Amonikoyi, Nigerian, 1880-1920
Medium: Copper alloy
We rarely know the names of past African artists, but Ali Amonikoyi is an exception, largely because he was a distinctive artistic innovator. He used metalworking techniques to make objects normally carved in wood and then used these objects in a nontraditional context. Moreover, he produced his works in proximity to colonial officials who observed and recorded his personal and artistic history.
Amonikoyi was a Yoruba born in Nigeria who migrated to Togo. There he used ancient brass-casting techniques to make mask forms resembling Yoruba gelede masks. These masks were placed on top of graves as memorials to the deceased, rather than being worn in dance performances.
Mask, Ngbaka Culture, from Ubangi River region, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th century
Baboon (Dje) Mask, Guro Culture, from Marahoué or Haut Sassandra Region, Ivory Coast, late 19th-early 20th century
Medium: Wood, organic materials
Zamble Helmet Crest Mask, Guro Culture, from Marahoué Region, Ivory Coast, 19th century
Mask, Ngbaka Culture, from Democratic Republic of the Congo, late 19th or early 20th century
Mask for the Idangani Society, Akish, Salampasu Culture, from Lulua Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, early 20th century
Mask, Lele Culture, from Kasai Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, late 19th or early 20th century
The Lele make masks that have much in common with those of their Bushoong, Shoowa, and Ngeende neighbors of the Kuba kingdom but are much more rare. Stylistically, they are usually much flatter than those of the Kuba and are generally decorated with red and white pigments. This Lele carver made imaginative and skillful use of pigment to underline volume contrasts such as the convex, almond-shaped eyes–with multiple eyebrows stacked on top of each other to accentuate the eyes–and the pronounced relief of the nose, ears, and cicatrization marks.
The masks appear principally at the funerals of chiefs and elders but are also used in annual performances that celebrate and teach the history of Lele origins and migrations. In those performances, they are associated with the founding clans of the communities, who have superior status to the members of clans that arrived later.
Karanga Mask, Culture Mossi, from Nord Region, Burkina Faso, early 20th century
Karanga masks are danced at funerals in highly acrobatic, dramatic performances designed to emphasize their sculptural height. Most Mossi masks take the form of a totemic animal that protects a particular family from harm. This mask may be associated with the antelope, as the two projecting horns suggest.
Helmet Mask (ndoli jowei) for Sande Society, Mende Culture, from Nguabu, Moyamba district, Sierra Leone, late 19th-early 20th century
Artist: The Nguabu Master
Medium: Wood, pigment