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African Art
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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, Chislehurst, Kent, England [see note 1]; sold to Kenneth Macgowan (1888–1963), 1938; sold to Ralph C. Altman, Los Angeles, CA; sold to Dr. Ralph Linton (1893–1953), by 1953 [see note 2]; by descent to his wife, Adelin Hohlfield Linton (1899–1977); sold to Marie-Louise Montgomery Osborn (1905–1968) and James Marshall Osborn (1906–1976), 1954; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.,1955

Note 1: The Cranmore Ethnographic Museum was established by Harry Geoffrey Beasley (1881–1939) and his wife Irene Marguerite Beasley (1882–1974) in 1928.

Note 2: Ralph Linton was the Sterling Professor of Anthropology at Yale from 1946 until his death in 1953.


Ralph Linton, The Linton Collection of African Sculpture: An Exhibition, March 13 through April 18, 1954, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 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.