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African Face Mask – Kpeliye’e

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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 honors 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 consists 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 the 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 in the world.

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

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.

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 fiber, cotton cloth, feather, metal, a 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

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

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

– African proverb

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Photo Credit: 1)By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “shooting_brooklyn” [CC BY-SA 2.5 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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