Mask Representing a Beautiful Mother (D'mba)

late 19th–early 20th century

African Art

As the idealization of mature female beauty and vitality, D'mba appears with a finely braided coiffure. Shiny brass tacks and other ornaments emphasize her brilliance as she dances in the sunlight. The dancer is a young man, chosen for his strength and agility, which are necessary for the athletic movements in the dance of this almost 83-pound mask. The wearer places his head inside the hollow shoulders of the sculpture and looks out through the two small holes between the breasts. The D'mba performance traditionally occurs at weddings (where the bride is carried on the shoulders of the bridegroom's brother), funerals, and agricultural festivals.


Wood and brass


52 × 15 3/8 × 24 3/16 in., 82.5 lb. (132.08 × 39 × 61.5 cm, 37.42 kg)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



19th–20th century


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 records is ongoing.



Possibly with J.J. Klejman, New York, about 1956. Arnold Maremont, Chicago, by 1960; sold to Charles B. Benenson (1913–2004), Greenwich, Conn., June 16, 1972; bequeathed to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2004
  • 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), 245, ill
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Hot Space, Cool Space: The Reinstallation of the African Art Collection in the Louis Kahn Building at Yale University," African Arts 40 (Summer 2007), 37–38, 42–43, fig. 3, 9, 10
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006," in "Photography at Yale," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006), 222
  • Frederick John Lamp, "Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale," in "Recent Acquisitions 2001–2003," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004), 41, ill
  • Primitive Art from Chicago Collections, exh. cat. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1960), n.p., no. 102, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

ceremonial objects, masks (costume)




An oval label is found in the hollow underneath the bust with the inscription: "Exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago".

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

View IIIF manifest

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. Visit to learn more

Linked Art

API response for this object

Linked Art is a Community working together to create a shared Model based on Linked Open Data to describe Art.