face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask
face mask

Image Resources | Currently on View in Eiteljorg Suite of African and Oceanic Art

Face Mask

We people


Some masks of the We and other peoples in this area are noted for the variety of materials added to them.  For example, very little of the wood surface of this carving is visible since it has been covered with repeated applications of paint, fur, shells, cloth, feathers and other materials.  The cartridge shells at the top and the wooden leopard's teeth bordering the sides and bottom of the mask indicate that it is a male.

(Mamadou Koita, New York) sold on July 31, 1975 to Harrison Eiteljorg [1903-1997] of Indianapolis; donated to the IMA 1989

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

A bristling, three-dimensional mask, styled like a snarling leopard, is ingeniously constructed with feathers, quills, shells, fur, and other materials. Aggressive details such as cartridge shells on the top and wooden leopards' teeth edging the sides and bottom indicate that the mask is intended to be male. This carving emanates an assertive, spiritually commanding aura.

In the social life of the We people, the mask acts as a mediator between members of the community and as a tool for teaching moral lessons during civil disputes or public entertainment. Masks created in this part of Africa-eastern Liberia and western Côte d'Ivoire-are often cumulative and used for generations. Once a plain wood carving, this mask now displays successive applications of materials that have added ritual significance and visual impact. A male artist was commissioned to carve the mask; others, during the lifetime of use, added shells, fur, and other objects. The more the mask accumulates, the greater its power. The masker also wears an immense raffia skirt and might carry a staff.

The masquerade is a spirit . . . given to men to organize and discipline them. . . . The sacred masquerade is thus the stabilizing element of society.
-We scholar Angele Gnonsoa, 1983

Object Information

culture
We people
creation date
early 20th century
materials
wood, pigment, shells, cloth, fiber, fur, paper, metal, feathers, quills
dimensions
19 x 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.
accession number
1989.373
credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Eiteljorg
collection
African Art
colors