Elephant Mask

Elephant Mask

early 1900s

Cotton, burlap, glass beads, twine, leather, and wood

Overall: 139.7 x 50.8 x 19.1 cm (55 x 20 x 7 1/2 in.)

The Harold T. Clark Educational Extension Fund 1985.1082


Did you know?

Performers wore elephant masks with indigo-dyed robes, red feather headdresses, and leopard pelts. Leopards and elephants symbolized royal power.


The name given to masks like this, mbap mteng, means "animal with huge ears." In the Cameroon Grassfields kingdoms the elephant signifies power, authority, prestige, and leadership. The colorful glass beads that decorate the mask’s surface were imported from Venice and Bohemia (in Europe) and signal wealth and prosperity. Members of Kuosi, an exclusive male secret society, wore such elephant masks for ritual dances and funerary ceremonies.

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