African Art

Mask with Superstructure in the Form of a Female Figure

mid to late 20th century

Textile, wood, plastic flowers, sequins, wire, and paint

35 7/16 × 27 15/16 × 30 5/16 in. (90 × 71 × 77 cm)
with cloth hanging down: 55 1/2 in. (141 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
Ode-Lay associations manipulate the concepts of “fierce” and “fancy” aesthetics to control the visual intensity of their masquerade and to affect spectators emotionally. “Fierce” headdresses often use animal forms. The “fancy” aesthetic of this headdress is associated with origin myths about femininity. The style of the two faces on the headdress derives from the art of the Ibibio of Nigeria, who were repatriated to Sierra Leone from captured slave ships in the nineteenth century, but the pair of vertical scarification marks on each face’s cheeks shows its appropriation by the indigenous Temne youth of today. Ode-Lay masquerades occur at the New Year, Christian and Muslim celebrations, and political demonstrations.
Sierra Leone
On view
Temne, Ode-Lay association
20th century

Jeremiah Cole, Los Angeles and Atlanta,to April 28, 1992; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn 1992–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 101, ill.

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.