helmet mask (Landai) for Poro association

Loma people
Creation date
wood, pigment, feathers, fiber, cloth, fur, hair, skin
65 x 32 x 24 in.
Credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison Eiteljorg
Accession number
Currently On View In
Eiteljorg Suite of African and Oceanic Art - W305

The men who wear these impressive masks, as helmets, can see through the snout.  They appear during initiation activities of the men's Poro association.  The masquerader escorts the boys into the initiation school in the bush and announces their return to the village.

As spiritual overseer of Poro initiation proceedings, the masker pretends to devour the youths.  Later, they are believed to be reborn from his stomach, as though through a womb.  The prominent teeth and red mouths of these masks may allude to the ritual devouring.

This mask's imagery combines the opposing forces of nature and civilization.  Natural forces of the universe are symbolized by the "great bush spirit," which can be seen in the mask's great size and crocodile-like mouth with movable lower jaw.  Civilization is symbolized by the "legendary first ruler," an ancestor who is identified by the nose and other human facial features-the beard, bushy eyebrows, and ear hair and nose hair of an elder.

(Lamine) sold on Oct. 17, 1974 to Harrison Eiteljorg [1903-1997]; donated to the IMA 1989
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