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African Art

Animal Head for a Puppet Masquerade

mid to late 20th century

Wood, paint, mirrors, cloth, and metal

72 × 25 × 36 in. (182.88 × 63.5 × 91.44 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This headpiece showing a buffalo surmounted by a hyena and a crocodile was formerly affixed to a wooden structure covered with an array of colorful textiles. It appeared in theater performances of a youth association in the Segou area along the shore of the Niger River in central Mali. This tradition dates to pre-colonial times, and the public performances are still offered to impart knowledge or to comment on current events or social themes. They have continually evolved as new characters and performance styles are introduced. While the tenor of the performances is playful, the topics are profoundly serious.
On view
20th century

Moussa Diane, New York: unknown date - October, 20, 1992
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


“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), 207, 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.