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Face mask
Date: Mid 20th century
Medium: Wood, pigment, paint
Dimensions: H x W x D: 25.1 x 20.6 x 10.8 cm (9 7/8 x 8 1/8 x 4 1/4 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Herman H. Kahn
Geography: Benin
Object Number: 69-31-35
Search Terms:
Male use
Ancestral
Object is not currently on exhibit

For the Yoruba, those who have died remain part of the community, seperated from but still connected to their descendents. While traditions and formal details vary between the regional subgroups, all egungun masquerades honor the ancestors and convey valuable social messages as to proper behavior. The masks take a wide variety of shapes and materials from layered cloth panels to carved wooden face and helmet masks. The satiric character mask (idan) is somewhat hard to understand since it often deliberately breaks the rules of what the Yoruba consider beautiful and good. Characters include animals, and stock personages such as the devotee, the drunk and the prostitute. This wood face mask probably represents a foreigner, a non-Yoruba such as a Dahomean, a Hausa or a westerner. The foreigner is shown as someone with distorted, bloated features and the implication is that his moral qualities are as distorted as his appearance.

Human face with puffed out cheeks, coffee bean eyes with cut out slit and pierced nostrils. Traces of yellow pigment and silver paint remain on the face.

Herman H. Kahn, New York, -- to 1969


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