Although primates physically remind us of ourselves, it is the animal's behavior that is of particular interest to African cultures.
Monkey figures in the Baule culture are usually associated with trance divination cults. They symbolize the wild spirits of the bush, or the world outside of the village. Encrusted with offerings over its entire surface, not just the bowl it holds for sacrifices, the monkey's semi-crouching pose and aggressive open jaws is in stark contrast to the Baule's still, serene human figures. Monkey figures are concealed from women not because they are evil, but rather because of the extent of their power.
Similar concerns with spiritual power are woven into the construction of nkisi mbumba among the Vili and Yombe groups of the Kongo peoples (acc. no. 73-8-8). The skull, housed in an intricately knotted holder, serves as a container for magical medicinal substances that heal and defend.
The Dogon mask is far less threatening. This wood mask is, despite its black color, carved in a form usually identified as a white monkey. Neither the monkey nor the blank face have teeth and are considered non-aggressive.