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African Art
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Male Mask

early to mid-20th century

Wood, pigment , and nails

17 1/2 × 9 1/2 × 9 1/2 in. (44.45 × 24.13 × 24.13 cm)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
2011.133.2
This mask depicts a male figure and may have been danced by the Humoi association, a healing society that was led by women but also admitted male initiates. The highly stylized double-headed snake, knotted into the folds of the neck and ascending into the hairstyle to consume a pair of rodents, may allude to the aggressive forces of the natural world, while the flaps that shield the face refer to spiritual power as it relates to medical expertise. Four rounded, decorated leather flaps were typically wrapped around the neck of a traditional healer, but the flaps on this mask serve to shroud the face in secrecy, reminding the audience of the wearer’s secret knowledge gained through initiation.
Geography: 
Sierra Leone
or geography Liberia
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Mende, possibly Humoi association
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Masks
Provenance: 

Collected by William Siegmann, New York. Bruce Frank, New York, to 2011; Purchased by Yale University Art Gallery in 2011

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions,” https://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Pub_Bull_acquisitions_2012.pdf (accessed December 21, 2012).

Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers and Alexander Bortolot, eds., Visions from the Forests: The Art of Liberia and Sierra Leone (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014), 76, no. 4.17.

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.