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Helmet mask
Date: Mid-20th century
Medium: Wood, pigment
Dimensions: H x W x D: 51.4 x 34 x 29.5 cm (20 1/4 x 13 3/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Warren M. Robbins
Geography: Grassfields region, Cameroon
Object Number: 76-57-1
Search Terms:
spider
Object is not currently on exhibit

This crest mask, in the form of a human face, is of a type found among many Cameroon chiefdoms. It depicts an important person as shown by the stylized rendering of a knotted fiber prestige cap, which can only be worn by men of high rank. This crest mask exemplifies additional power with the inclusion of the spider motif. Ground spiders are used in divination practices in the Cameroon Grassfields region as a way of gaining access to divine knowledge.

Wood helmet mask of male head with pierced cap with spider motif, protruding ears, open oval eyes, open mouth with teeth, low relief eyebrows with deep vertical cuts and a pierced opening in the mouth. Traces of white still evident around and on the eyes.

Warren M. Robbins, Washington, D.C, -- to 1976


Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., April 22, 2013-February 23, 2014; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, October 15, 2015-March 9, 2016



Artful Animals, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., July 1, 2009-July 25, 2010



Life...Afterlife: African Funerary Sculpture, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 19, 1981-March 1, 1982



Milbourne, Karen E. 2013. Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa. New York: The Monacelli Press; Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 109, no. 85.


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