Origin: Gola Peoples, Liberia
This fascinating and extremely rare Gbetu helmet mask embodies ideals and lessons transmitted to the Gola peoples from the world beyond…through the dance and accompanying rituals, the tribe calls upon the power of the spirits for progress, fertility of the fields and the tribe, and brings ideals of female beauty into the context of the natural world. The mask has a demure, soft expressiveness that conveys these elements. From our experience with masks of this type and style, it is likely that the piece dates to the early part of the 20th century. There are good signs of naturally occurring age and wear on the mask, both on the inner part of the helmet and the outer surface. The mask is in outstanding condition and is impressive in person, much more than photos can convey.
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: wood, lacquer paint, encrustation, palm oil|
|Dimensions: 21” (h) x 8” (w) x 7” (d), 53 cm (h) x 20.3 cm (w) x 21 cm (d)|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art|
|Literature: “Hair in African Art and Culture” Allridge|
"African Art in the Cycle of Life", Roy Sieber and Roslyn A. Walker
“Africa, The Art of a Continent”, Prestel, 2004
According to research on the known carver Lansana Ngumoi, the following was written by scholars at the University of Iowa as background on Gola masks of this style:
“Most Gola art is associated with initiation and healing….This type of mask is the only type of African mask reserved exclusively for women. It is used by female members of the Gola peoples during ceremonies as young girls are initiated into a women's secret society called Sande, an organization that is responsible for the education and socialization of young Gola girls. In the course of the initiation process, they learn an entire body of knowledge: rules of moral conduct, legends, dance steps, songs, and secret recipes for medicines.
When Gola girls reach the proper age (puberty), they are separated from their families and their community and taken in groups to isolated initiation camps. The length of the initiation time varies: for some groups it is several weeks, while for others it may be several months. This is an extremely important time for these girls because it is a transition between childhood and adulthood, between ignorance and knowledge, between play and responsibility. The elders stress concepts of moral stature and personal beauty. The girls acquire the knowledge they will need to perform as mature women, as mothers, and as citizens in their community. For instance, only women possess certain skills, such as the gathering and preparation of herbs and medicine from the wilderness. The girls are also prepared for marriage, which usually occurs soon after they have "graduated" from the camp and return to their community.
During a ceremony, the newly initiated girls are led back to their community and reintroduced by a dancer who wears this mask and is covered from head to foot by a black costume. The dancer is accompanied by an attendant who "announces" the arrival of the Sande mask by name, and informs the gathering of the characteristics of the spirit. When not being used ceremonially, Sande masks are used to decorate the living spaces of revered members of the society. Each mask also has a personal name that represents the power of the female spirit it represents.
The Sande mask depicts the feminine ideal of beauty among the Gola, including an elaborate carved hairstyle, thick rings of neck fat to indicate health and prosperity, and a high, domed forehead. The surface of the mask is a glossy black, the color of the mud on a river bottom. Black is also the color of clean, oiled, healthy, and beautiful human skin, and the women are praised for their glossy complexions. The "wet" appearance alludes to water and its function as a barrier between the physical and spirit worlds.
|Provenance: on request|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items for sale from dealers we worked with previously|
121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
Item has been sold.
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