Mama Buffalo Mask Nigeria


This extraordinary sculptural carving is a classic example of a traditional African horizontal mask created by the Mama people who live in the interior of Nigeria, to the north of the Jos plateau. The artistic output from the Mama consists of highly-stylized wooden zoomorphic heads, primarily of a bush cow, worn with a thick overlay costume of fiber to disguise the dancer. The horizontally worn headdresses symbolize a protective bush spirit and emphasize, through an energetic dance masquerade, the aggressive power of the animal itself. Their use is believed to be followed by prosperity for the village. This dynamic mask (mangam) is, essentially, an abstract tripartite form consisting of a dome-like cap, a circular rack of horns and an elongated, protruding mouth below. The characteristics of their abstraction from natural referents to an actual bush cow attest to the genius employed in its creation. This mask's composition is the result of a sophisticated imagination, one which takes the complex and makes it deceptively simple. Carved from a hard wood and coated with a liberal amount of red pigment (camwood), this example is in very fine condition.

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