Amazing Antelope Mask.
Burkina Faso; c. 1960
Measures: 58” tall x 28” wide x 9” across ; mounted on 18” tall pedestal and 5” post ( total piece stands 81” tall )
Adoné Antelope mask headdress
Kurumba masks are used in three major events during the annual cycle: masks escort the corpse of dead male and female elders to the tomb and supervise the burial on behalf of the spirits of the ancestors of the clan. Weeks or even months later, during the dry season, masks appear
at funerals to honor the deceased and to free the spirit to travel to the world of ancestors. Finally, just before the first rains in late May and June,
masks appear at collective sacrifices in which the ancestors are honored together with the spirits of the protective antelope, Hippotragus koba ,
that is the totem of most Kurumba clans.
These functions conform to patterns throughout Burkina Faso, especially in the north. Masks appear for the same events among the northern
Mossi, in Yatenga, Risiam, and Kaya, because the ancestors of the northeastern Mossi who use masks were Kurumba. At funerals, and at public
performances following the funeral, masks are physical reembodiments of the spirit of the deceased elder, and the mask may be addressed
using the dead person's name. The mask is a means of preserving the memory of the dead, by providing a physical reminder of the dead elder's
achievements in life. As among the Mossi, masks are used as portable altars on which the living may offer sacrifices to the dead, securing their
blessings for the year to come. In addition, the mask carved at the death of a high-ranking clan elder serves to enhance the prestige of the
deceased. When not in use, masks may be placed on altars in the ancestral spirit house within the family compound.
Among the Kurumba as among peoples in central Burkina Faso, the geometric patterns painted on masks are symbols that refer to major events
in the myths of the founding of the clan, and the masks themselves represent the antelope that played a role in these stories when it saved the
life of the founding elder.
Sources: A History of Art in Africa / Africa - The Art of a Continent / The Tribal Art of Africa / The Dance, Art and Ritual of Africa
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