SPECIAL ADVISORY: The Yale University Art Gallery opens to the public with free, timed-entry tickets to special exhibitions beginning September 25, 2020. Learn More

African Art
PrevNext1 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Mask Representing an Antisocial Character (Gongoli)

early to mid-20th century

Wood, black pigment, red paint, and fabric

19 × 15 × 16 1/2 in. (48.3 × 38.1 × 41.91 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
Ugly! This is the reaction that the Mende audience has when seeing this mask in performance. The uglier, the better. The function of the Gongoli performance is to show the worst side of human nature: deformed, disheveled, chaotic, undisciplined, deceptive, and antisocial. The mask is worn with a hideous costume of dead leaves and rags. The movements of the performer are disjointed, erratic, awkward, and amusing. Gongoli masks are usually owned by private individuals and may appear at any celebration.
Made in Guinea Coast, Sierra Leone
Made in Guinea Coast, Liberia
Not on view
20th century

A. Timmermans, Brussels: collected in the early 1960's
Marie-Eliane d'Udekem D'Acoz, New York: unknown date - June 12, 1991
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Frederick John Lamp, “Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): 35, ill.

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

My Knanh Ngo, “Art Gallery Exhibit Brings Africa to the Elm City,” Yale Daily News (January 30, 2007), 5, ill.

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), 228, 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.