A version of the Senufo Kpelie mask

West Africa
West Africa

Q:  This mask belongs to a doctor friend who is suffering from dementia. He worked in Cameroon in the 1970s so the mask may come from that area. Unfortunately he can no longer tell me where he got it. Can you help?  Dr. G., 817

A:  Called a Kpelie, these easy to recognize masks are a creation of the Senufo people who inhabit northern Ivory Coast. They were originally made for boys and men to wear as they proceeded to advance through the stages of acceptance required by the Poro Society. Because these masks are popular with collectors and tourists, thousands of them are made and sold every year, both in Ivory Coast and other places such as Cameroon. The snake on top, the woman on the bottom, and the overall touches of black and white are quite unusual. Unfortunately there is little reliable information on this piece, so we must assume it is a careless copy.  C

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