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Bamun Kwifo Society Helmet Mask from Cameroon
- Bamun Kwifo Society Helmet Mask from Northern Cameroon
- This mask was likely created for the Kwifo, a secret male Society of the Bamun People. The face of the wearer would have been hidden within a costume of the Kwifo. The Kwifo Society enforces the laws of the King, preserves Social Order, and maintains Ancestral Values. In effect, they are a police force answerable to the King that carries out orders and punishments at night. In fact, the word Kwifo literally means "night". They usually perform in large groups of 8 to 30 people, accompanied by musical instruments, in particular drums, rattles, and the xylophone, all the while maintaining their anonymity by wearing masks like this example. When they make special appearances at Memorials to members, they are especially impressive and received with awe and reverence.
- Bamun Kingdom, ca. mid-20th century.
A wood Helmet Mask of sizeable form displaying an oversized head crowned by a towering, openwork headdress. The expressive visage presents generously lidded, almond-shaped eyes beneath arched brows, a broad nose, and full lips parted to reveal 2 rows of sharp, jagged teeth. His cheeks are adorned with incised cruciform designs, likely representing ceremonial scarification. A petite pair of pointed ears sits just below the elaborate headdress, which is comprised of 3 horizontal rows of openwork, geometric patterns flanked by the zigzag top and bottom peripheries. A rich, espresso-hued pigment envelops the entirety of the piece, save for the fierce teeth, which are white.
- Measurements: 19.2" H x 9.5" W (48.8 cm x 24.1 cm)
- Provenance: Private Collection in New York.
- Condition: Chips, nicks, scratches, and abrasions throughout indicating use and wear. Old inactive insect holes to surface. Some small areas of loss to the bottom periphery. Great remaining detail and patina.
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