(Senufo, d. ca. 1950)
Wood, upholstery studs, resin, and paint
Overall: 31.6 x 16.7 x 11.4 cm (12 7/16 x 6 9/16 x 4 1/2 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1989.48
Face masks like this example are most typically worn during initiation and funerary rituals of a poro association, an age-based organization with religious and sociopolitical responsibilities. Though only worn by men, the masks have facial characteristics that are essentially female, and their imagery is closely related to ideas of sexuality and fertility. The scarification mark on this mask’s forehead is an oblique symbol of a woman’s genitalia, while its lustrous black surface imitates a woman’s oiled, smooth skin—a sign of ideal feminine beauty.
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