Antelope Helmet Mask
H. 36 x W. 22 in. Approximately
Wood, Pigment ca. 20th century
This Helmet mask is a Senufo mask typically referred to as kponyugu , which means “head of the Poro.” The Senufo kponyugu masks are both horizontal composite animal forms with long, projecting horns, and a gaping mouth. The mask also features fearsome elements such as sharp teeth and claws. These details relate to Senufo cosmology, legends, and beliefs about the connections between certain animals and the ancestral and nature-spirits that connect the living. The mask’s main usage is to be presented at a burial or funeral of a deceased member of the association in order to escort them to the other world, all while protecting the rest of the community from supernatural threats. The term Senufo refers to a linguistic group comprised of roughly thirty related dialects within the Gur language family. Poro refers to the central social institution to which all men within the region belong.