I have often written about African masks and why I find them so interesting and appealing. At our recent visit to the St. Louis Art Museum, I made it a point to look at the African collection, and to try to read some of the notes available about the items there. Africa is a huge continent with a wide variety of cultures and peoples, a long history, and much that's been lost, but much more that's preserved in what I see as a rather mysterious state.
The museum does not have the name of the artists for a single one of these heads and masks, though they do seem to know the names of the rites or the special ceremonial societies for which the masks were used. For example, the Suku mask below was made for initiation ceremonies, during which young boys from a village learned about farming and hunting. The mask personified village ancestors, according to the label.
|Mende Mask, Sierra Leone, Early 20th C.|
|Baule Mask, Je Society, Cote d'Ivoire, Early 20th C.|
|Suku Mask, Congo, Late 19th C.|