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Ndoma portrait mask - Baoule - Côte d'Ivoire

Height: 28 cm.
Material: wood.


Without sales history.
Piece of collection of Strasbourg, 1980-2019.


This mask is exceptional because of its refinement.

The Baule of current Ivory Coast perform a certain number of dances for the village entertainment: one of those is known under the name of Mblo.
The Mblo is performed during times of social stress or anxiety, or political turns, to relieve and entertain the community.
Mblo representations also occur during the funerals of high-ranked members, respected by the community - in this case, the funerary representations are named Gbagba.

Mblo dancers wear outfits that include portrait and animal masks (these masks are also named Mblo) and their dances imitate the behaviour of the character represented by their outfits. Performances increase in intensity as masquerades enter the village square, with masks representing, honouring, caricaturing and criticising important members of the community.
The peak of the Mblo performances takes place when the final mask appears, representing the most venerated member of the village.

Usually commissioned by men to honour relatives, Mblo masks are supposed to be the “artistic double” of the represented person. As such, human masks carved with the image of a woman are named Ndoma, meaning “homonym”.
Ndoma masks usually have the name of the represented person, and during the representations, the presence of the relevant person is required when his/her mask appears.

According to Philipp Ravenhill, Mblo masks were “worn to incarnate a series of characters and dance to music with a participatory audience. The performance culminates with the arrival of the [Mblo] under a human form, especially portrait masks inspired by real persons. The person depicted and honoured by the mask [would dance occasionally] with him and would fondly call him “homonym” (ndoma). As for the Baule figurative sculpture representing companions of another world or bush spirits, the face of the mask is essential to depict the Baule idea of personality and verisimilitude. By observing the glance of the mask, we can see a person with a lively presence.

When they are not worn, Mblo masks are stored in the room of their respective masquerade, carefully wrapped in cotton fabric to prevent women from seeing the backsides of the masks and to protect those from insects.

African art, Africa, tribal art, primitive art.

Object Ndoma portrait mask
Region/ country Côte d'Ivoire
Material Baoule
Period Mid 20th century
Condition Excellent
Sold with stand No
Dimensions 28×0×0 cm
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