3 African crest masks

Crest masks sit over the top of the head. Visualize a helmet mask that is way too small. They can be found with the costumes of several tribes in a number of different regions.

Two live in southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon and produce a distinctive types of crests or helmet masks carved from wood and oftencovered with animal skin, possibly from an antelope. With or without the leather, these two masks get a lot of attention. Both portray the human head with a high degree of naturalism. They have expressive facial features, intricate linear tattoo patterns, complex spiral horn coiffures, and feather and fiber ornaments. They would have been performed by dancers wearing cloth and fiber costumes.

The third crest mask we are showing here is from the Kurumba people who model it after a antelope. Kurumba masks are used in three major events during the annual cycle: masks escort the corpse of dead male and female elders to the tomb and supervise the burial on behalf of the spirits of the ancestors of the clan. Weeks or even months later, during the dry season, masks appear at funerals to honor the deceased and to free the spirit to travel to the world of ancestors. Finally, just before the first rains in late May and June, masks appear at collective sacrifices in which the ancestors are honored together with the spirits of the protective antelope, that is the totem of most Kurumba clans. Bob, 1748

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