Brooklyn’s Semi-Cameo on Treme—Delving Deeper

Thinking further about our unexpected cameo on Treme the other week, there are even further connections to our own collection that can be made to the Loma mask highlighted on the show.

Despite the considerable geographic distance between them, the Loma and the Senufo share not only a similarly named institution in the form of Poro, but also a genre of ‘horizontal’ wooden masks used for their generally protective and law enforcement capacities. Brooklyn has a number of wonderfully potent examples, some of which have (regrettably) not been on view for some time.

“Firespitter” Helmet Mask (Kponyugo)

“Firespitter” Helmet Mask (Kponyugo). Unidentified Senufo artist, early 20th century, Korhogo district, Côte d’Ivoire. Wood. Gift of Eugene and Harriet Becker, 1990.220.

Koma Mask

Koma Mask. Unidentified Mau artist, late 19th or early 20th century. Bafing region, Côte d’Ivoire. Wood, cowrie shells, metal, feathers, horns, leather, fiber, sacrificial materials. Gift of John and Marcia Friede, 76.20.2. Side and top views.

Koma Mask

Koma Mask. Unidentified Mau artist, late 19th or early 20th century. Bafing region, Côte d’Ivoire. Wood, cowrie shells, metal, feathers, horns, leather, fiber, sacrificial materials. Gift of John and Marcia Friede, 76.20.2. Side and top views.

Extending our reach even slightly further (and in response to an influential question posed in the 1990s in an African art journal—Is there history in horizontal masks?), there is an intriguing case to be made for connections to more well-known horizontal masks in Brooklyn’s collection that have long been on view, and will return later this summer in our new African Innovations re-installation (more on that very soon).

Banda Mask

Banda Mask. Unidentified Nalu or Baga artist, late 19th or early 20th century. Coastal Guinea. Wood, metal, pigment. Caroline A. L. Pratt Fund, 58.7.

Komo Society Mask

Komo Society Mask. Unidentified Bamana artist, late 19th or early 20th century, Ségou, Koulikouro, or Sikasso region, Mali. Wood, metal, antelope horns, porcupine quills, organic materials. By exchange, 69.39.3.

Both the Banda mask, by a Baga artist, and the Komo mask, by a Bamana artist, suggest intriguing visual and functional parallels with the Loma Ngafui mask in New Orleans.

Maybe next season?