Saturday, February 16, 2008

Things - Masks

Faustus' posting of the Muppets and Harry Belafonte for February 13th over at The Search for Love in Manhattan made me take a good look, for the first time in a while, at what surrounds me every time I sit down at the computer - masks that Laurent has brought back from his trips to Africa.

Totem from TogoHe brought back the first when he went to Togo on a project back in the spring of 1982. Its not actually a mask but a totem to be placed on the hut of the Principal wife of the Tribal Chief. Carved in acacia then covered in a type of pitch, its inlaid with copper, small smooth stones and coloured beads. It's always been the one I've treasured the most and has been in every home we've lived in from Ottawa to Rome.

Sudanese Mask from Juba region
On one of his regular trips from Cairo, where he lived at the time, to the refugee camps outside Khartoum he found this mask from Central Equitoria (Juba) region in the south of Sudan. The wood has been carved in a distinctively Central African design then covered with a thin layer of leather.

While on several temporary assignments to Lagos he found some examples of the West African carvers' art in the local markets: Masks and totems from the Cameroons, Chad, Ghana and Nigeria.

Animal? Bird?
I not sure if this one was meant to be a bird, animal or human and I until I took these pictures today hadn't noticed that it was asymmetrical.
Update: Laurent left the following comment: All the masks are from separate Tribal groups. They are meant to represent this or that Tribe. The one with the multiple marking on the face in white is in fact beauty scars to adorn the faces of males of that tribe near the coast of Cameroon. We really should talk more.
Animal? Bird?

Fertility Totem
Now I may be reading more into things than are there but I would say chances are this one is a fertility symbol of some sort. Though one friend did think it may have been the inspiration for one of the characters on Futurama and a few people have found it creepy. I like it.

Red maskI was asking Laurent if he thought this Nigerian mask didn't have almost a European look to it - perhaps a representation of a slave trader? He thinks I may be forcing a meaning on it. I really wish we had more history on these.

Leather maskAnother mask carved in wood and then covered in leather. The features and animal symbol on the forehead are outlined in a braided leather. Its a very intricate piece of workmanship.

Metal maskThis is Laurent's favorite and my least favorite - again Nigerian but this time worked in metal. For some reason the crocodile and two smaller faces have alway disturbed me.

16 febbraio - Santa Guiliana

8 comments:

Doralong said...

While they are indeed beautiful- I'm afraid they would creep me out too if I had to live with them.. Guess I'm just an uncultured redneck.

sageweb said...

Those are pretty cool. I always wanted to get into the masks...the ones I found in Thailand were beautiful. I just never could convince myself to get them, I thought they might come alive at night and bite me.

Willym said...

Doralong: Believe me I would never have them in the bedroom but in a den or even, as in Aylmer, the family room they can be quite the conversations pieces. And when were you ever an uncultured redneck?????

Sageweb: We have one Mexican mask, 8 in total I believe but all in storage at the moment, that always bothered me. We could never get a focused photograph of it. It was a Devil mask from a Good Friday ceremony in the south. A photographer friend figured out what the problem was: the boar bristle moustache and beard were always the point of focus so the rest appeared blurry! Nothing really scary but boy did it bother me for a long while.

lnb1956 said...

All the masks are from separate Tribal groups. They are meant to represent this or that Tribe. The one with the multiple marking on the face in white is in fact beauty scars to adorn the faces of males of that tribe near the coast of Cameroon.

Willym said...

LNB1956: Thank you dear - I knew we should talk more often - how are things in the dining room; things here in the office are just fine.

Sling said...

These are just beautiful willym,and I don't find them creepy at all.
It would be nice to get some more of the history behind them I'll bet.
Laurent has done a great job collecting such an interesting variety!

BigAssBelle said...

those are really amazing. i've never seen so many different kinds. gorgeous.

a totem to be placed on the hut of the Principal wife of the Tribal Chief. . . . and he brought this to you? how sweet ;-)

Elizabeth said...

I'm with Laurent; I think the last one is amazing. Though it is strange and mysterious. My Grandfather had a collection of masks and, as a child, they were creepy to me.