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African Face Mask – Kpeliye’e

WLA metmuseum Mask Kpeliye

African Face Mask – Kpeliye’e

This African Face Mask, known as Kpeliye’e, features an oval face with geometric projections at the sides. Raised and incised scarification patterns ornaments the smooth, glossy wood surface. Considered a feminine mask, it honours deceased Senufo elders with finely carved traditional art. The feathers and animal horns attached to this example are unusual and may have reflected its owner’s specific powers and role in the community.

Senufo people

The Senufo people are a West African ethnolinguistic group, that consist of diverse subgroups living in a region spanning the northern Ivory Coast, southeastern Mali and western Burkina Faso. The term Senufo refers to a linguistic group comprising many related dialects. The Senufo people are famous for their handicrafts, many of which feature their cultural themes and religious beliefs.

Artistic Influence

The art of Senufo people inspired 20th-century European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. The cubism and masks found in Senufo pieces were a part of Pablo Picasso’s African period. Senufo art can be found in many leading museums of the world.

Artistic movements such as cubism, fauvism and expressionism have often taken inspiration from the diverse heritage of African masks

Traditional African Masks

Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of the traditional culture of Sub-Saharan Africa. While the associations to ritual masks vary widely in different cultures, some traits are common. Masks usually have a spiritual and religious meaning, and they are used in social and religious events and are endowed with specific symbolism.


  • Did ceremonial masks play an essential role early in any other non-African cultures?
  • How did  African art influence Europe and Western art?

Explore the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

African Face Mask – Kpeliye’e

  • Title:                African Face Mask – Kpeliye’e
  • Date:               19th–mid-20th century
  • Geography: Côte d’Ivoire, northern Côte d’Ivoire
  • Materials:    Wood, horns, raffia fibre, cotton cloth, feather, metal, sacrificial material
  • Culture:        Senufo peoples
  • Dimensions:  H. 30 1/4 x W. 13 x D. 9 in. (76.8 x 33 x 22.9 cm)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET


“Where water is the boss,
there the land must obey.”

– African proverb


Photo Credit: 1)By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “shooting_brooklyn” [CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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