Mask: Ntomo

Bamana peoples, Mali


Collection of Dusty Hind and Dr. Barbara O’Shaughnessy

9.87 x 28.12 x 7.25 inches in

The Ntomo Society is the most elementary of initiation grades for young Bamana men. The central character of Ntomo drama dons a mask and observes absolute silence, a metaphor for the self-mastery, restraint and endurance that characterise initiation into adulthood. Silence informs the iconography of this mask, for the mouth is minimal, and is completely absent from the miniature mask depicted on the forehead. The projections atop the mask refer to sprouting grain, and perhaps more specifically to fonio, a local cultigen that is always planted in silence. The smaller mask is surmounted by an antelope, probably in reference to the farming that gave agriculture to Bamana peoples.

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