Arts of Africa
On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Virtually nothing is known about this mask’s use—not even which of the ethnic groups in the region might have made it. Its geometric abstraction has made it an icon of African art for Western audiences, who have linked its planar volumes with the radical forms of early European modernism, particularly Cubism.
late 19th century
14 x 6 x 9 in. (35.6 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm) (show scale)
Frank L. Babbott Fund
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Possibly Kota (Mahongwe subgroup). Mask, late 19th century. Wood, pigment, 14 x 6 x 9 in. (35.6 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 52.160. Creative Commons-BY
3/4, 52.160_threequarter_acetate_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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A wooden mask made up of geometric planes, revealing tool marks on the surface overall. The crescent-shaped face projects outward at the top and comes to a point. Below it, brows arch above the eyes and move downward to a sharp point at the center. A medial ridge moves from the top of the mask to the bridge of the nose. The mask's chin moves slightly upward to a point. Between the overhanging scalloped brows and upturned chin are carved angular features in high relief. Below the brows are two hollowed-out block-shaped eyes. A nose widens gradually as it moves from the bridge of its triangular form to its base. Near the base on the outside of each nostril is a small hole drilled towards the inside of the nose. Below the nose is a small solid block-shaped mouth. The overall surface of the mask has traces of black and red-orange pigment. The left side of the face, unlike the right, has been rubbed with white lime. At the back of the mask is a hollow rectangular opening for the wearer's head with two square openings for his eyes. Condition of mask is good with traces of pigment missing from the surface in general. The right and left sides of the forehead have small cracks; in the hollow back section of the mask is a crack through the wood. Through each side of the mask, near the rear, are three carefully drilled holes, one on top of each other.
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