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Guro Mamiwata mask

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast

Q:  Thank you for the help on the Dan mask yesterday. I told my friend about your website and the info you provided, and that it was a great help. He gave me this cool snake mask to figure out. Have you ever seen one like this? It measures 13″ x 2 1/2″ x 7″ and is carved wood.  Thad’s friend, 814

A:  I’m delighted to present this mask on the blog because it proves how creative African carvers can be. A mask with matching snakes crawling out of each nostril, and with great sculptural artistry, is seldom seen. My guess is that it was made by a Guro artist, most of whom live in Ivory Coast next to the Baule people, an even larger ethnic group whose subject matter and styles are often similar. Mamiwata is a cult goddess who looks like a mermaid and almost always has pet snakes around her. I believe this cult has been popular beyond Ivory Coast in much of West Africa for the past 150 years. I won’t give the mask a value grade because I can’t tell whether it was used in culture or antiqued for sale to the tourist and collector markets. Either way, it is a pleasant surprise to see.

Categories:   Africa

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