Kuosi Society Elephant Mask
Elephants, leopards, and buffalo are often associated with political power in the highly stratified kingdoms of the Cameroon grasslands. Beadwork is also associated with royalty and high rank, making this Bamileke beaded elephant mask a potent symbol of power. The right to own and wear elephant masks is carefully controlled; only members of royal families, court officials, wealthy title holders, and important warriors are admitted to the Kuosi masking society that uses them. The society assists the king, or fon, in his role as preserver and enforcer of a rigid sociopolitical hierarchy. These masks are worn at funerals, Kuosi celebrations, and other important events.
- Culture: Bamileke
- Medium: Cloth, beads, raffia, fiber
- Place Made: Grassfields region, Cameroon
- Dates: 20th century
- Dimensions: 56 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (144.1 x 54.5 cm) (show scale)
- Collections:Arts of Africa
- Museum Location: This item is on view in South Gallery, 1st Floor
- Accession Number: 81.170
- Credit Line: Purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal
- Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
- Caption: Bamileke. Kuosi Society Elephant Mask, 20th century. Cloth, beads, raffia, fiber, 56 3/4 x 21 1/2 in. (144.1 x 54.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal, 81.170. Creative Commons-BY
- Catalogue Description: Elephant mask composed of cloth to which various colored beads have been sewn, and wearing its own complimentary hat. The cloth foundation is primarily deep navy blue. The mask form is composed of a hood-like head/face with round eyes outlined in red cloth and white beads, a nose of red cloth to which are sewn pale blue beads, and an oval shaped red cloth mouth outlined in white beads. The rest of the face has white, deep yellow, and varying shades of blue beads, as well as cowrie shell decoration. The square shaped hat attached to the back of the hood is decorated with blue and white beads. The mask has large disk shaped ears with white, blue and deep yellow beads. Two long rectangular panels (representing the elephants trunk) extend down the head; there is one panel in front and one hangs in the back. The inside lining of the panels is woven raffia fiber cloth. The panels have white, blue, ochre, and red beads. The bead design is geometric and relies primarily on a basic isisceles triangle pattern and its variants, for example, triangle radiates outward from a circle, or are arranged in an hour-glass like design.
- Record Completeness: Best (85%)