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African Art

Mask (Mgbedike)

mid-20th century

Wood and paint

44 × 15 × 19 in. (111.76 × 38.1 × 48.26 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This mask type stands in certain conceptual opposition to the maiden genre. It relates to male spirits, and its name, Mgbedike, translates as “time of the brave.” Its fearful and aggressive character is emphasized in the iconography. Horns and spikes protrude from the elaborate openwork superstructure, which incorporates animals such as leopards, horses with riders, snakes, monkeys, and antelope heads. The strength of these wild animals is a metaphor for the mysterious and potentially destructive power of spirits or medicines from the disorder of the wilderness.
Made in Nigeria
On view
20th century

Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 50, fig. 28.

“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), 76, 223, fig. 20.

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.