00:00
/
00:00
Unknown Maker
Face Mask (Kpeliye’e)
20th century

A stylized depiction of a beautiful young woman, the kpeliye¿e mask features an elongated oval face or two joined faces in a slightly smaller than life-size scale. Horns and/or elaborate crests including birds, a woman or abstract symbols often appear atop the head, while geometric motifs flank the face. With the exception of the central ones (the ¿ears¿ of the mask), the motifs are intended to be decorative. The projections at the mask¿s base allude to a specific women¿s hairstyle.

The Lang collection includes two kpeliye¿e masks (see also M84-128); this one is a simplified but particularly refined example of the genre. It lacks the large, sometimes top-heavy crests found on some works, instead contrasting the sweep of the delicate, incised horns with the slight curve of the projections at the bottom of the chin. The thin depth of the hollowed-out wood suggests a skilled carver and further contributes to the mask¿s lightness and refinement.

Kpeliye¿e is a generic term referring to a face mask in this style. Although all are worn by initiates of the men¿s Poro society and associated with initiation rites and performances at funerals, specific names, ownership and use varies depending on Senufo sub-group. Within the group associated with farming, for example, the mask (known as kotopitya-ye¿e) would be owned by a woman who had been advised by a diviner to procure one; she would loan it to Poro initiates to dance at funerals.

 
Unknown Maker
Senufo peoples
Face Mask (Kpeliye’e)
20th century
wood
height / width / depth: 31.20 x 13.00 x 7.00 cm; 12.28 x 5.12 x 2.76 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-245

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.