Bambara Ntomo Mask



Traditionally tribes in this regions have six male societies (Jo, Ntomo, Kore, Komo, Chi Wara, Gwan), each with its own type of mask. Every male had to pass through these societies in progression, until he reaches the highest rank, where he would have acquired an ample knowledge of ancestral traditions. Initiation for men lasts for seven years and ends with their symbolic death and their rebirth as adults. The Ntomo society is made up of young boys before circumcision. The number of horns indicates the mask’s gender and characteristics. Three or six horns are for male mask, four or eight for female and two five or seven are androgynous masks. Ntomo masks have thin mouths that never speak, stressing the virtue of silence and the importance of controlling one’s speech. During their time in Ntomo cycle the boys learn to accept discipline. They do not yet have access to the secret knowledge of the subsequently society and other initiation societies.

Ntomo masks serve to protect young boys during their first initiation cycle before circumcision. These masks are danced by established men to protect the boys and it would also be worn by the boys as they would dance and test one another by beating at each other with sticks to prove their bravery by not showing pain. Such initiations were done by circumcisions. Mask like this, of a human face with a superstructure composed of the head of a hyena were used at the end of the initiation ceremony. The hyena represent foolish behavior reflecting an uneducated view of the world, very much like the young male initiates. Unfortunately, this mask has two broken horns. The two missing horns protruted from above the ears.

Wood , Pigment

Height : 19″ (48.3cm)