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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Masks : African Art / West African Wooden Mask
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African Art / West African Wooden Mask - PF.4666
Origin: Sierra Leone
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 18" (45.7cm) high x 10.5" (26.7cm) wide
Collection: African
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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As a general principal, masks all over the world and particularly in Africa were most often used in religio-magic-social rituals. Though the nature of a ritual varies from one tribe to the next, they share similarities in being performed on a sequestered and consecrated site aimed at the invocation of supernatural entities. A mask can protect the wearer, and for a time become the actual spirit invoked. As objects of power they dominated a ritual with supernatural force; a fact easily appreciated when seeing a mask as powerful as this one.

Spirits were summoned in order to increase the life-giving ability of human, animal and earth. Therefore, masks often embody characteristics of both animal and human, created in such a way as to be each in turn and yet neither; possessing their own distinctive attributes while being recognizable. This magnificent mask is truly larger than life; a personification of something beyond our understanding, though strangely familiar. There is an almost intimate sense in the delicately carved mouth and eyes which still show faint traces of linen. Its grandeur is more comforting than intimidating, more human than animal, more beast than abstract spirit. When paraded in a ritual ceremony this mask must have created a great stir; stimulating the crowd whose natural piety related to its strength, spiritual essence and beauty.
- (PF.4666)


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