Kanaga Mask, Mali, Africa
H: 106 cm (41,7″), W: 52 cm (20,5″)
This Kanaga mask with typical geometric patterns represent the first human being according to the mythology of the Dogon people in Mali. Kanaga masks are worn during the drama dancing ceremonies. The Dogon believe that the Dama dance creates a bridge into the supernatural world. Without the Dama dance, the dead cannot cross over into peace. Rotating their upper bodies from the hips and swinging the masks in wide circles, the dancers imitate Amma, the creator god, who brought all things to life.
A typical characteristic of Kanaga masks is the dual cross with short bars extending up across the top piece and down on the bottom piece. Their outstretched movements symbolically spread the force of life throughout the world. The top portion of the vertical bar sometimes bear an animal, human or abstract figure. The masks are normally painted white and black. Common features are the rectangular face, thin long nose and large eyeholes.
Provenance: Private Belgian collection
The Dogon are famous for their artistic designs in woodcarvings and elaborate masks. Their dances include over 80 varieties of masks, each depending on the type of celebration.