Maskette, late 19th–early 20th century
This is a Maskette.
Within Mande-speaking Mau populations of the northwestern regions of Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, there are men who undergo years of specialized training in the art of combatting the negative forces that cause social, moral, and physical discord. They belong to an exclusive organization, called the Koma society. Though less common today than in the early twentieth century, Koma society members work with two large-scale masks: the Komaba ("Mother of Masks"), which would attract the negative forces, and the Komasu (principal male mask), which would eliminate them. With its attenuated beak-like projection and heavily encrusted surface, this miniature mask draws on the symbolism and materials used to empower the larger Komaba and Komasu but it would have been used by an individual man. In his hands, it would serve both to protect him and to act as a calling card --proving his membership in Koma-- should he travel.
It is credited
National Museum of African Art, Gift of Lawrence Gussman in memory of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, 98-15-11.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 29.1 x 8 x 6 cm (11 7/16 x 3 1/8 x 2 3/8 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.