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Kpelie Mask, Senufo, Ivory Coast, 20th c.

Wood, 12" x 6" x 3 /1/2"

Gift of Dr. Richard Ulevitch

CAT 2019 RU 9

The Senufo people reside in the countries of Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mali. In their celebration of female beauty and power, the Kpelie mask is performed during the initiation of young boys, funerary rituals and harvest festivals. Each of these performances ensure the continuity of life. 

The mask has unique features that represent ideals of beauty and female power. The antelope, ram and hornbill are common symbols incorporated into the mask design. The elongated flanges extending from the bottom of the mask and feathers on the crown reference the hornbill bird, a symbol of fertility and metal smiths amongst the Senufo. The horns extending from the mask represent the sacrificial animals gifted to the ancestors.  The center of the forehead contains a palm nut used in divination rituals. The scarification along the forehead, eyes and cheeks enhance Senufo ideals of beauty.

Although the mask represents female beauty, the masquerader is male, The image below illustrates the elaborate costume and delicate movements of the performance.

senufo beautiful lady mask performance.j