African Art

Bondo Society Mask (Nòwo)

late 19th century

Wood, metal, fiber, and coins

15 3/16 × 8 11/16 × 9 1/4 in. (38.5 × 22 × 23.5 cm)
Gift of Charles D. Miller III, B.A. 1974
This women’s mask appeared in a photograph first published in 1901 and taken by Cecil H. Firmin, who was working in southern Sierra Leone with the Government Railway. In this photograph, we can see the details of the mask: the number of neck rings and their position, the flange on the bottom, the indented flat face, the number of hair crests, the number of hairline ridges above the forehead, the triple scarification marks on each cheek, and the position and proportions of all the facial features. Since the time of the photo, the mask has been ornamented with a tiny, silver British coin on each side of the coiffure, and it shows decades of wear.
Sierra Leone
Southern Bullom
19th century

This mask appeared in a photograph that was first published in 1901, taken by a Mr. Cecil H. Firmin, who was working in southern Sierra Leone with the Government Railway.
Gift of Charles D. Miller III to Yale University Art Gallery in 2008


Harry Hamilton Johnston and A.H. Keane, The Living Races of Mankind. A popular illustrated account of the customs, habits, pursuits, feasts and ceremonies of the races of mankind throughout the world, II (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1901-1903), 488.

Walter Hutchinson and T.J. Alldridge, Customs of the World: A Popular Account of the Manners, Rites and Ceremonies of Men and Women in all Countries, II (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1913), 771.

“Yale University Art Gallery advertisement,” Yale Alumni Magazine (2009): 65, ill.

“Acquisitions 2009,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2009): 122–23, ill.

Harry Hamilton Johnston, Liberia, 2 vols. (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1906), pl. 410.

Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers and Alexander Bortolot, eds., Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014), 72–74, fig. 9, 4.12.

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.