Helmet Mask (Gbetu) with Raffia Costume
Arts of Africa
Gbetu is a men’s masquerade performed primarily for secular entertainment. While a genre owned and performed by men, gbetu is considered to be feminine, as she is seen to “give birth” to small dancing figures that appear to emerge from beneath her raffia skirt, perform, and then return to her folds.
Each mask is owned, controlled, and performed by a specific household (known as a gbonji), and is accompanied by its own proprietary music and choreography. Gbetu dances in a highly energetic, acrobatic manner, advancing in broad swishing motions, making full use of the head-to-toe raffia covering.
Wood, pigment, metal, raffia
early to mid 20th century
This item is not on view
Gift of William C. Siegmann
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Gola. Helmet Mask (Gbetu) with Raffia Costume, early to mid 20th century. Wood, pigment, metal, raffia, 93 x 48 in. (236.2 x 121.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William C. Siegmann, 2011.53.1a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2011.53.1a-b_PS6.jpg)
overall, 2011.53.1a-b_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
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Helmet-shaped wooden mask (a) surmounted by long ringed neck with small head at the top. Helmet portion of the mask carved with an arrangement of geometric patterns. Costume consists of two fringes of raffia, one resting around base of mask at dancer’s neck and other larger skirt (b) likely worn around chest or possibly waist.
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