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Unknown Maker
Monkey Mask (N’Gon Koun) Monkey Mask (N’Gon Koun)
unknown date unknown date

The monkey figure, or N’Gon, in Bamana culture introduces an element of humour and satire into important societal and religious ceremonies. The N’Gon generally arrives before other masqueraders, where it starts to interact with the audience through high-energy, eccentric actions. The dancers of this mask, as with other animistic characters (hyena, antelope, elephant), draw inspiration for their movements from observations of the animals. The masquerader’s actions are therefore quite erratic, as he darts through the crowd, mocking attendees and making inappropriate sexual gestures, meant to highlight unacceptable behavior. The N’Gon can also be the cause of playful mischief in the village, sometimes entering people’s homes in order to steal food, or other objects. The dancer wears an intricate costume so that the audience focuses on the N’Gon identity and not the individual; this is generally true for all masquerades in West Africa.

The monkey is also one of three animals associated with the Kore initiation society, the other two being the hyena and the lion. Young boys go through the Kore initiation away from the village in the bush, where they must pass a series of physical and mental tests, and then symbolically die before being reborn as a man of the community. The men wear the masks once their initiation has finished and they return to the village, acting like the animal portrayed in the mask.

 
Unknown Maker
Bamana peoples Bamana peoples
Monkey Mask (N’Gon Koun) Monkey Mask (N’Gon Koun)
unknown date unknown date
wood wood
height / width / depth: 22.00 x 13.00 x 13.00 cm; 8.66 x 5.12 x 5.12 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-391

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