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Mask (Nyanga)

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 Bobo
MEDIUM Wood, metal
  • Place Made: Africa
  • DATES early 19th century
    DIMENSIONS height: 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS "VOG 92"
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2015.41.1
    CREDIT LINE Purchase gift of various donors in memory of Jerry Vogel and gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas III, by exchange
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION Bobo. Mask (Nyanga), early 19th century. Wood, metal, height: 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchase gift of various donors in memory of Jerry Vogel and gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas III, by exchange, 2015.41.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2015.41.1_threequarter_PS4.jpg)
    IMAGE threequarter, 2015.41.1_threequarter_PS4.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 Domed helmet mask with extended vertical face. Thick curved horns between metal repair.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS
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    Bobo. <em>Mask (Nyanga)</em>, early 19th century. Wood, metal, height: 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchase gift of various donors in memory of Jerry Vogel and gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. Gordon Douglas III, by exchange, 2015.41.1 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2015.41.1_threequarter_PS4.jpg)