Bamileke Elephant Mask

Bamileke

Cameroon

These kinds of masks are owned and used by the Kuosi society, formerly a warrior society, whose membership includes many of a community's most wealthy and high ranking men. The Kuosi society's power is suggested by the symbolism of the elephant, a commanding animal from the forests. The luxurious use of imported beads demonstrates the high social status of the Kuosi members. Beads were once rare and expensive material in Africa.

These masks are worn only at special ceremonies, such as a society member's funeral or a biennial public celebration. The long flaps at the front and back are symbolic of the elephant's trunk. The round disks at either side are the ears. The triangular patterns recall the leopard spots. As well as the elephant, the leopard is another commanding animal from the forests. During the ritual dances, the wearer pinches the flap into a tube to resemble more the trunk of the elephant.

Wood , Cotton , Cloth , Beads

Height : 55″ (139.7cm)