This royal mask would have been performed at night; the animals around its crown are bats, nocturnal animals. The angular forms on the openwork cap reference the Cameroon brown spider which is associated with the high status of kings and the power of divination. This large spider is a member of the tarantula family and lives in the ground near the base of trees. In Cameroon the sacred earth spider has supernatural wisdom and serves as intermediary between the living and the buried dead. It is through these spiders that Cameroon diviners communicate with their ancestors.
Crest Masks are different than face masks in that they are worn atop the head, rather than in front of the face. The dancer wearing this mask would have had his face concealed under a mask of see-through fabric. The rest of his body would have been covered in a costume of cloth.
[Gallery label text, 2009]
Afrantique Arts, Wyckoff, NJ; purchased from them by the Gallery in 1971
This object has the following bibliographic references:
Article Scope: Reproduction only.
Susan Dodge Peters, ed.
Memorial Art Gallery: An Introduction to the Collection.
New York, New York: Memorial Art Gallery in association with Hudson Hills Press, 1988.
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