African Art

Mask (Gbona Gla)

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, feathers, fiber, pigment, hide, human hair, cowtail hair, boar tusk, animal teeth, cloth, nails, and encrustation

25 × 15 × 9 in. (63.5 × 38.1 × 22.86 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The identity of a Wè mask is more apparent in the costume and accoutrements, which the owner adds, than in the wooden mask itself, which has been carved by a sculptor. A mask represents a lineage and may appear in the village dance arena with many other masks. Each is followed by an orchestra and an assistant who interprets the mask’s grotesque sounds. Masks are called to perform especially at times of conflict. The masked character may act as the “supreme judge,” pronouncing verdicts and imposing fines.
Guinea Coast, Liberia
or geography Guinea Coast, Côte d’Ivoire
19th–20th century

Marie-Eliane d'Udekem D'Acoz, New York: unknown date - January 25, 1987
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, 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), 294, 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.