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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Archive : Bete Wooden Face Mask
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Bete Wooden Face Mask - PF.5994
Origin: Ivory Coast
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 20" (50.8cm) high x 15.5" (39.4cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood and Mixed Media

Additional Information: Sold

Location: United States
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Bete masqueraders perform during burials, at the end of mourning periods, or in honor of the arrival of important dignitaries. Sometimes they, or one of their attendants, carry a lance. This weapon likely relates to the masks original tribal function: a war mask. The face of this mask is composed of horn-shaped geometric volumes that, as independent bodies, seem to emerge from back panel of the two-planed mask. The separate features are arranged in horizontal tiers, interrupted in the vertical only by the appendage that curve up from below the chin. This mask is unusual both for its tremendous size as well as its shape. Generally, Bete masks are far more abstract. In this example, under the series of arms that appears very similar to a skeletal ribcage, the facial features of the mask are quite discernable. There is little abstraction in regards to the nose, as is quite common in other Bete works. However, this mask was clearly meant to be and has been worn and danced during ritual ceremonies. Animal hides cover portions of the surface and are secured in place by imbedded upholstery tacks. The use of animal skins on masks occurs frequently among the art of various tribes, perhaps in an effort to create a realistic texture and appearance to the wood. There is an intimidating quality that pervades this work, no doubt related to its original function as a war mask. While this mask would have once been worn in combat to frighten the enemy, today it is used to welcome visiting dignitaries. The same artistic features that once put fear into the heart of the enemies now command the respect and admiration of important guests for the cultural traditions of the Bete tribe. - (PF.5994)


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