Southern Bullom (Sherbro) Sierra Leone
Thoma mask, first half of 20th century
Wood
15 x 10 3/8 x 10 1/2 in. (38.1 x 26.35 x 26.67 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.6
Bassa
Liberia (Gibi District)
Mask, first half of 20th century
Wood
7 9/16 x 3 1/2 x 4 1/4 in. (19.21 x 8.89 x 10.8 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.11
Dan Liberia
Kagle mask, mid-20th century
Wood, metal
8 1/4 x 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (20.96 x 13.97 x 8.89 cm.)
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.2
Zon (c. 1900–1985)
Dan
Liberia (Nuopie)
Miniature mask (ma go), second half of 20th century Wood
3 5/16 x 2 x 1 1/2 in. (8.41 x 5.08 x 3.81 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.14
Dan Liberia
Miniature mask (ma go), mid-20th century
Wood
3 1/4 x 2 3/8 x 1 5/16 in. (8.26 x 6.03 x 3.33 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.16
Dan Liberia
Miniature mask (ma go), mid-20th century
Wood
3 7/16 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/4 in. (8.73 x 4.13 x 3.18 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.17
Kono
Sierra Leone
Mask, first half of 20th century
Wood, cotton, plant fibers, feathers
10 1/4 x 7 3/4 x 2 7/8 in. (26.04 x 19.69 x 7.3 cm.) Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.10
Dan or Mano Liberia
Mask with shoulder cloth, first half of 20th century
Wood, animal fur, feathers (of the great blue turaco, Corythaeola crostata), cotton, beads
34 x 16 x 13 in. (86.36 x 40.64 x 33.02 cm.)
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of William Siegmann 2011.70.1
Info
 

Masks Large and Small

Few artistic expressions are so intimately associated with Africa as masks. Masquerades are among the most complex and prominent Africa’s traditional art forms, uniting the creative efforts of sculptors, performers, attendants, musicians, and spectators, while the masks themselves display a dazzling variety of shapes, functions, and expressive powers. This exhibition includes large helmet masks, masks worn in front of the face or at an angle on top of the head, and miniature masks that are often wrapped and kept on the owner’s body.

Among the Dan people and their neighbors, a mask—large or small—is typically created after a dream in which someone encounters a forest or household spirit. The spirit wishes to become incarnated in a mask, which is commissioned from an artist and consecrated through performances and offerings. Both large and small masks may serve as altars— focal points for human-spirit interactions—revealed by crusty traces of food and oil.