Baule mask, Ivory Coast, Africa

Late 19th - Early 20th century

African wooden mask from the Baule people in the Ivory Coast, dating from the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century.

This mask was carved as the portrait of an important individual, perhaps a skilled dancer, a respected politician, or someone known for great beauty. Mblo masks were danced around the community for entertainment. The term Mblo refers to performances that consist of a succession of dances that grow in complexity and prominence, ultimately culminating in tributes to the most distinguished member of the community. The people thus honored are represented by a mask designed as their artistic double or their namesake.

This type of mask embodies the essence of the Baoulé style. The deep luminous surface is associated with highly stylized designs such as downcast eyes, smooth and pronounced forehead, serrated beard, elaborate hairstyle and ornamentation. These traits indicate an individual who is not only physically beautiful, but who emanates social grace, intelligence, and dignity, qualities that the Baule people admire.

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