A favorite type of African mask

Gu mask from West Africa
Gu mask from West Africa

Q:  This mask looks like ebony wood.  It is 20″ x 9″ wide.  It was a gift from a friend who traveled extensively.  I have had it since the 1990’s.  Cheryl, 685

A:  We see thousands of masks of this basic design and, frankly, in never get tired of looking at them. Here is a little more information.

The Barakat Gallery says of a similar item– “This mask belonged to the male society responsible for performing various rituals that maintained social stability and political order. With the aid of such a mask, the people hoped to influence supernatural powers, or yu, an extremely dangerous spirit that can harm humans; but can also ensure their survival. The spirit is represented as a human face with the horns and ears of an antelope. Stylistically derived from the Yohure tribe, this carving is typical of Yaure artwork that so influenced early 20th Century painters like Modigliani and Picasso: the arching brow flows into the thin nose, the mouth is diminutive with pursing lips, and the face is framed with a collar of triangles in low relief.”

Very true. But the Guro and Baule people who live close to the Yaure in Ivory Coast, also make masks like this one. Though it is very handsome, it is of medium quality and was made for sale rather than use, perhaps at a big shop in Cameroon or some other location. I would give it an A in decorative value and a C for monetary value.


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