X73.529 Elephant mask

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Not Currently On View in Intersections 


Object Name: Elephant mask and costume

Artist: Unknown

Culture Group: Bamileke peoples

Place of Origin: Cameroon

Date: 19th century

Materials: Burlap, fiber, fabric, seed beads, human hair

Dimensions: H: 118.0 cm, W: 111.5 cm (H: 46.4 in, W: 43.8 in)

Credit line and Accession Number: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Barry Kitnick. X73.529


Striking beaded or tufted masks emulating elephants were the prerogative of the Kuosi association in the Bamileke region and were performed during funerals and public ceremonies to ensure prosperity. Formerly a society of warriors, the Kuosi association’s substantial dues eventually came to restrict membership to the wealthy. During performances, luxurious materials and royal symbols covered the Kuosi dancers’ bodies, revealing their affluence and high status. The attached vestment with tufts of human hair signals that this is a ”leader mask” and symbolizes royal authority and lineage strength.