The Mande-speaking Mau peoples live in the northwestern regions of Cote d'Ivoire. This mask is used in the Mau secret society known as the koma, an association whose primary aim is to combat sorcery. All Mau boys must be initiated into the koma, which is divided into age grades. After the age of 20, some members are permitted to act as intermediaries between the head of the koma society and the villagers at large. Koma members draw out malevolent beings by inspiring fear and awe. They accomplish this by dancing the koma ba, the female mask that sings and dances to attract evil spirits, and the koma su, the male mask that hunts them down. Koma su is often heard and not seen. Lurking outside the village, it makes itself known with shouts and dissonant sounds produced by peculiar musical instruments, enhancing the effectiveness of the masquerade.
This mask is a koma su, the male mask. The masquerader holds it in front of his face by grasping its downward projecting prongs. The horn and bundle containing a medicinal substance that is attached to the top of the flattened face increases the mask's power. Mau oral history suggests that the three parallel prongs that form the mask's beak refer to the Diomande, the acclaimed ancestors of the Mau whose faces were scarified in this fashion. Like the forest Dan and We, Mau make miniature versions of their large masks to function as personal protective charms. Like the komo society masks of the neighboring Bamana, Mau koma masks such as this one are heavily encrusted with sacrificial materials.