Lot 148: 20th C. African Salampasu Wood, Brass, & Rattan Mask

Artemis Gallery

March 15, 2018
Louisville, CO, US

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Description: Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Salampasu, ca. 20th century CE. A dramatic hand-carved wooden mask with a copper-covered face. The coiffure is composed of eighteen rattan balls with a woven netting hanging on the verso, and a braided beard terminates in a single suspended rattan ball. The open mouth is carved full of teeth, and the Salampasu style is present here with a large, emphasized forehead. Triangular eyes, a bulbous nose, and slender chin all comprise the intricate visage, with dozens of small copper panels covering the exterior. Rife with expert artistry, this is an expressive and finely-crafted example from Central Africa! Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 20" H (50.8 cm); 23" H (58.4 cm) on included custom stand.

The approximately 60,000 Salampasu people live on the Kasai River, near the border between the DRC and Angola; they are governed by territorial chiefs and have a reputation as fearless warriors. Masks like this one are marks of hierarchy, accessible to men after they have passed through a circumcision ritual. Earning the right to wear a mask means that a man has accrued a certain amount of wealth (through payments of livestock, drink, and other material goods) and has performed specific deeds. The copper sheets are a prerogative of leadership, and in some cases, are worn by members of the Ibuku warrior association who have killed in battle.

Provenance: private Eason Eige collection, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

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Condition Report: Age-commensurate surface wear, tarnishing to brass elements, with small chips to peripheries, otherwise intact and very good.
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