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Koma Ba Mask

Arts of Africa

Only initiates of the Koma men’s society may see the figure of the koma ba, which dances in the village to attract evil spirits that roam the bush at night. Koma ba masks are composed of a human face with a beak extending from the chin and wooden horns on the head. The horns are filled with substances that protect the wearer from sorcerer spells. The mask is heavily encrusted with blood and with chewed and expectorated kola nut; in addition, X-rays show a miniature metal bow and an arrow point as well as rifle-shell casings beneath the surface materials, all of which increase the power of the mask.
MEDIUM Wood, cowrie shells, metal, feathers, horns, leather, fiber, sacrificial materials
  • Place Made: Ivory Coast
  • DATES late 19th-early 20th century
    DIMENSIONS 41 x 11 x 11 in. (104.1 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Marcia and John Friede
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Mau. Koma Ba Mask, late 19th-early 20th century. Wood, cowrie shells, metal, feathers, horns, leather, fiber, sacrificial materials, 41 x 11 x 11 in. (104.1 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Marcia and John Friede, 76.20.2. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE x-ray, detail, CONS.76.20.2_2007_xrs_detail01.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
    "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 Mask (composite-bird, animal, human). It has a large curved bird-like beak for a mouth that is open. Inserted into the back of the mouth is a medicine bundle with hair protruding on right side. Across the top rear of the mouth, cowrie shells have been embedded in a band and a horn. The eyes are slit-shaped and void; the nose is visible but heavily encrusted with various types of material. Two horns extend on either side of the forehead.The forehead is heavily encrusted with various types of substances including mud, string horns, nails and what appears to be three shotgun shell casings. At the top are two ears, two wooden horns, and a large cluster of brown feathers. Condition: All of the added parts and various substances are loose. Parts of the heavily encrusted sections of the forehead are breaking away. This piece was examined by Conservation shortly after arrival.
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