Zoomorphic Headdress

Bamana peoples, Mali

Wood and rope

Anonymous gift

22 x 24.25 x 14.5 in

This mask combines the features of a number of animals, including the straight horns of an antelope, the facial characteristics of a buffalo or “bush cow” and the long face of the aardvark. The bush cow is an animal that appears frequently in African art. Among Senufo and related peoples, the buffalo stands for much more than an animal and is a frequent poetic element in Poro initiations, songs and narratives. During phases of Poro initiation, neophytes parade in horned wooden masks called “head of the buffalo” and are believed to be physically transformed into buffalo, which signifies the knowledge that is disclosed during the course of initiation. The aardvark is another significant animal among Bamana, for whom it is a symbol of determination and conscientiousness. This mask combines features of both Senufo and Bamana styles.

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