African iron mask

Q:  I found this picture online. I saw a similar piece in an auction. The expert talked about a Senufo death mask. Could you let me know your opinion about the origin of this kind of mask?  Nicolas, 1113

A:  I’ve never heard of a Senufo death mask, however there are masks similar to this made by the Bamana and Dogon people of Mali. Their blacksmiths would do the smelting to get the iron from the ore, then heat and hammer out both the tools, weapons and the important ritual objects used in the culture. I know nothing about the usage of iron masks. Perhaps most of them are for the tourist trade. They certainly are attractive. This particular one can be seen on page 24 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn.

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