Skip Navigation

Mask (Kponyugu)

Arts of Africa

Becoming Again

Masquerade is a moment for play—a chance to invent and experiment, even within established social needs and existing mask genres. These two pairs of related works demonstrate artistic innovation in existing masquerade genres over time.

The two Bobo works share a basic form—a domed helmet with an extended vertical face, close-set eyes, and ridged horns—typical of Bobo mask style. The archaic features, weathered surface, and evidence of local repairs suggest that the nineteenth-century mask (far left) was a work of considerable local importance. It may represent an intellectual and visual predecessor of the twentieth-century version.

The Senufo kponyugu masks are both horizontal composite animal forms with long, projecting horns, a large, gaping mouth, and fearsome accoutrements such as sharp teeth and claws. Such details relate to Senufo cosmology, legends, and beliefs about the connections between certain animals and the ancestral and nature spirits that connect the living. The bright paint and overexaggerated features of the late twentieth-century version demonstrate how Senufo artists have updated this mask form over time.
CULTURE Senufo
MEDIUM Wood
  • Place Made: Korhogo Area
  • DATES late 19th or early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 14 x 36 1/2 x 11 in. (35.6 x 92.7 x 27.9 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 1990.220
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Eugene and Harriet Becker
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please contact reproductions@brooklynmuseum.org (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact copyright@brooklynmuseum.org.
    CAPTION Senufo. Mask (Kponyugu), late 19th or early 20th century. Wood, 14 x 36 1/2 x 11 in. (35.6 x 92.7 x 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Eugene and Harriet Becker, 1990.220. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1990.220_threequarter_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE 3/4, 1990.220_threequarter_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2016
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Wooden helmet mask carved from a single piece of wood with a light brown patina. The dome-shaped central portion has an open set of jaws through which the wearer looks. At the rear of the jaws is a pair of flattened tusks. At the rear of the central portion is a pair of horns. On top of the mask is a carved chameleon with a long necked bird. CONDITION: Proper right side of lower jaw: one tooth missing; proper left side of upper jaw, tooth has only a small portion remaining; proper left side of lower jaw, two teeth are missing.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.