DescriptionSENUFO HELMET MASK FOR PORO ASSOCIATION
(COTE D'IVOIRE, WESTERN AFRICA)
Various animal-headed helmet masks are worn by the highest ranking masquerades of the men's Poro association. They take part in funerals, initiations of youths, among other activities. Such masks incorporate imagery from various animals and may be termed "composite" animal headpieces. This carving has a prominent crocodile mouth bristling with teeth, tusks of the ferocious wart hog, two pairs of antelope horns, one pair on top of the head, the other issuing from the back of the head. There is also a chameleon on top of the head and a prominently billed bird, probably a hornbill, at the helmet's back. Together these animals bring attributes of speed, strength and other qualities which endow the headpiece with authority.
These dramatic headpieces acquired the name "firespitter" masks in some quarters because an early European traveler among the Senufo witnessed a nocturnal performance where hot coals were placed within the open snout of a masker. With dancing movement, sparks emanated from the mask in dramatic fashion. Cloth concealed the identity of the wearer, who would have been accompanied by one or more drummers. This well-worn mask evidences minor abrasions overall. The tip of the proper right frontal horn has broken off
Length: 33 ½ inches
Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000.
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