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African Art

Helmet Mask (a-Ròng-a-Thoma)

early 20th century

Ricinodendron wood, raffia, metal, and pigment

12 1/2 × 18 1/2 × 20 in. (31.8 × 47 × 50.8 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art
The a-Ròng-a-Thoma mask represents a fantastical male water creature that resembles a hippopotamus, with ram horns, huge conical nostrils, and a large, open jaw baring teeth. The raffia costume consists of a short, thick fringe (still attached here), a long cape, a skirt, and pom-poms worn on the feet, all dyed a dull red. Several è-Ròng-è-Thoma may appear during an evening performance following the coronation of a chief, at the funeral of a chief, at a sacrifice to the community’s ancestors, or at a welcoming celebration honoring important visitors.
Guinea Coast, Sierra Leone
On view
20th century

The Cranmore Ethnological Museum in Chislehurst, Kent, England, unknown date–1938.
Kenneth Macgowan, 1938–unknown date
Ralph C. Altman, unknown dates
Dr. Ralph Linton, Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale, unknown date–1953
Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn donated to Yale University Art Gallery for the Linton Collection of African Art in 1955


The Linton Collection of African Sculpture, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954), no. 97, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, “The Royal Horned Hippopotamus of the Keita of Temne: A-Ròng-a-Thoma,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005): 36–53, ill. cover, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, “Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University,” African Arts 40 (Summer 2007): Cover, 42, 44–45, fig. 9, 14.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.