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Unknown Maker
Portrait Face Mask (Ndoma)
20th century

Ndoma in the Baule language means double or namesake. It also refers to masks such as this, which are portraits of individuals noted for their beauty or contributions to the community. Appearing in Baule entertainment dances (mblo) that are considered women¿s dances, ndoma are the most important masks of the diverse types that perform in mblo. They are worn only by the finest male dancers and are always accompanied by their portrait subject and other accomplished dancers.

During mblo performances, ndoma maskers are concealed behind screens until they emerge to dance, attired in beautiful cloths and moving in a subdued, graceful manner. Mask carvers emphasize the beauty and good character of the subject through the high forehead (a sign of intelligence), downcast eyes conveying respect, polished surfaces that suggest health, and intricately braided hair and scarification patterns that are considered marks of refinement.

Although meant to entertain and to celebrate exceptional dance skills, ndoma masks also reinforce social norms by providing an example and a contrast to the less civilized or important human and animal masks that precede them. In the past, they might appear several times a month at occasions such as the funerals of important people, during Baule days of rest, or to honor special guests. Today, ndoma masks are danced less frequently, most often at women¿s funerals.

 
Unknown Maker
Baule peoples
Portrait Face Mask (Ndoma)
20th century
wood
height / width / depth: 29.00 x 18.00 x 10.50 cm; 11.42 x 7.09 x 4.13 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-123

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