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Mask for Kòmò Society (Kòmòkun)

The conglomeration of materials and the thick, crusty surface of this and other kòmò masks suggest something mysterious. Unlike many other Bamana objects, such as the antelope headdresses in the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection, for example—which are clear, open, and sharply defined—this one is purposely nebulous and difficult to “read” at a glance. The mask does not represent a single animal, but instead incorporates features—and some actual parts—of animals that have special associations with power and the spiritual world. The murkiness and multiplicity of imagery is especially appropriate for an object associated with the Kòmò Society, whose members harness powers in the non-visible world for the benefit of their communities.

Bamana peoples, Mali
Mask for Kòmò Society (Kòmòkun)
First half of the 20th century
Wood, feathers, quills, fiber, animal hair, incrustation
L. 27 in. (68.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 72.111