In the 19th century, very large flat masks opposed witchcraft that caused infertility. The colonial government banned them as belonging to a secret society and a threat to its authority.
New masks, called bedu, appeared in the 1930s. These masks, which perform every night in the month after harvest, resolve in a more public, positive way the same problems as the older masks. Women who want children or who have sick children can circle or touch the masks. The masks also lead the community in songs that deal with problems, especially those of how people behave or misbehave.
Wood mask of flat triangular form with a disk superstructure on top of two curved columns. The bottom triangular form is painted in dark brown with bands of semicircles within semicircles in white, green and red. The top middle of the triangular form has a small complete mask in white, red, green and blue with an open mouth. The disk is segmented by planes of paint in white, red, blue and green. Lozenge-shapes float on these coloured planes in black and white.
African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 20-December 9, 2012; Newark Museum, February 26-August 11, 2013; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, August 23-November 30, 2014; Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta, January 31-June 21, 2015 (exhibited at NMAfA and Newark Museum)
First Look: The Walt Disney-Tishman Collection of African Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., May 17-December 3, 2006
For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1981
Sculpture of Black Africa: The Paul Tishman Collection, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 16, 1968-January 5, 1969; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, August 31-November 1, 1970; University of Texas College of Fine Arts, Austin; City Art Museum, St. Louis, August 20-October 17, 1971; Des Moines Art Center; Huntington Galleries, Huntington, WV
Masterpieces of African Art: Tishman Collection, Israel Museum, Spertus Gallery, Jerusalem, Spring-Summer 1967
Kreamer, Christine Mullen. 2012. African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution; New York: Monacelli Press, pp. 130-131, no. 7.20.
Kreamer, Christine Mullen, Bryna Freyer and Andrea Nicolls. 2007. African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 62-63, fig. 22.
Muze'on Yisra'el. 1967. Masterpieces of African Art: Tishman Collection. Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, no. 103.
Sieber, Roy and Arnold Rubin. 1968. Sculpture of Black Africa: The Paul Tishman Collection. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, no. 42.
Vogel, Susan (ed). 1981. For Spirits and Kings: African Art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 29-30, no. 12.