DescriptionMarka (Mali, Western Africa)
Face masks (pair)
Wood and metal
Height: 12 inches (largest)
The Marka people share a similar aesthetic to their neighbors, the Bamana, with an elongated face, rounded forehead, and pointed chin. Unlike many other West African masking societies, the Marka embellish their wooden masks with elaborately embossed sheets of metal. Most Marka masks also have horns projecting from the forehead giving the human face supernatural qualities associated with the spirit world inhabiting the bush. Masks like these were used during initiation ceremonies and to encourage prosperous harvests. Although collected and displayed together, there is no tradition among the Marka that would suggest that they form an actual pair. However, the two masks together make a powerful statement as objects of art. It is often the case with African art that the ravages of time and nature result in an appearance which is very pleasing to the eye, much as a piece of driftwood might hold more visual appeal than the same branch in its original state.
Both of these masks have been used for many years, and reveal extensive wear and tear. The upper foreheads of the masks have been entirely lost and the backs have been heavily distressed. The areas not covered by metal are highly worn. The similarity in the erosion of the wood on both masks suggests the possibility that they might have been discarded together after years of use, somewhere where they were exposed to a great deal of moisture.
Please Note: This lot will be accompanied by a Letter of Expertise (pictured below) from Michael Kan, former curator of the African Art Collection at the Detroit Museum of Art.
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