Baule Mbra Monkey Mask
Wood, pigment, animal hide, patina of age.
10.3 inches tall (26.2 cm)
Early – Mid 20th Century.
Jean-Pierre Hallet (1927 -2004)
No known exhibitions
No known publications
This stunningly life-like monkey mask is an Mbra mask more popularly known as Gbekre, from the Baule people of Ivory Coast. With its rough finish and the sharp metal teeth, the mask exudes undeniable malevolence with its real-life monkey rawhide partially cloaked face. These accents also express his nature as a spirit of the bush, as opposed to the smooth calmness of village spirits sculptures such as spirit lovers (blolo bla or blolo bian) or their highly finished ancestor figures (waka sana). The attachment holes, traces of libations, combined with the evident age, use and weather wear affirm the authenticity of this rare mask.
Its role or function remains uncertain. Some say it intervenes in the ritual of divination, others that it is a protection against sorcerers, or a protective divinity of agrarian rites, or a bush spirit. Owned only by trance diviners and certain families, the mask resides hidden outside under a shelter.