Lot 99F: African Bamum Kwifo Society Wooden Helmet Mask

Artemis Gallery

October 27, 2016
Louisville, CO, US

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Description: Africa, Cameroon, Bamun Kingdom, 1st half of the 20th century. An impressively large and important helmet mask in the form of an over-sized human head created for the Kwifo, a secret male society the Bamun people. Bold yet finely carved with an open mouth revealing teeth, enormous almond-shaped eyes, a broad forehead, and tightly cropped hair, this type of mask is known as a cap mask as it was intended to be worn on the top of the head covering the forehead. 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 carry 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! Size: 11" W x 16" H (27.9 cm x 40.6 cm)

Provenance: Ex-Adeon Gallery, Nick Poolos, Chicago, IL acquired before 1970.

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Condition Report: Losses at very top, else excellent.
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