Toma masquette from Liberia

Recently I had email exchange with Andrew Berz which resulted in him sending us these excellent photos and the following description.

Composition: wood, pigment, heavy layered remains of libations/encrustation, feathers, adhesive/tree tar, original fetish charge on the rear
Age: late 19th-early 20th century

Dimensions: 9″ x 4″
Provenance: Ex. Berz Gallery of African Art, Ex. Michael Rhodes, NY, Ex. Patrick Nuti, US
The Toma are prolific carvers, famous for their large Landai masks. Smaller masks of this style are extremely rare. The Toma have lived in the rain forest and their social and political regulations are grounded in the initiation and life activities of the Poro association. This mask is representative of the Landai, which is the Poro spirit that would finalize the initiation of young men. The boys/men would enter the forest and the spirit would inhale them through its nostrils. They would then be spit out as initiated tribesmen.
The wood shows signs of layered applied libations which have now become heavily encrusted and give the mask an incredible patina that is powerfully charged and rather foreboding. There are significant signs of wear along the edges where at one time it is most likely that feathers, cord, metal attachments, and cloth were attached to the mask, which were intended to empower the mask.
It has no signs of artificial edging or patina, and no evidence of a false application of oils or wax. The face and detail are remarkable after the many decades of wear and time that has given the mask its current visage. An extremely fine mask.





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