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Storytelling with Art

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Helmet Mask (Waniougo)

14 3/8 x 25 3/4 x 13 in. (36.5 x 65.4 x 33 cm)

Unknown, Senufo
Ivoirian

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Wood
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1970.22
Location: Currently on view
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The sharp edges and angular forms of this double-faced mask (waniougo) result in a fierce and expressive presence. A fearsome appearance is desirable as waniougo’s role is to frighten away evil spirits wishing to harm a Senufo village at times of particular vulnerability, for example at funerals. Their appearance in nighttime masquerades enhances the otherworldly presence of these “firespitter” masks; embers or burning grass are held in front of the mouths through which the wearer blows to creating a dramatic shower of sparks into the night sky.

Waniougo combines the features of crocodiles (teeth), hippos (tusks), warthogs (upper tusks) and chameleons (two are visible on the top). In order to empower the mask before the ceremony, the cup held by the chameleons is filled with magical materials and the mask freshly painted with spots.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

Provenance
Afrantique Arts, Wyckoff, NJ; purchased from them by the Gallery in 1970

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