Mano Mask – Liberia

In Mano society, and in those of many of their neighbors, dance masks embody ge or gle, bush spirits that desire engagement and communication with the human community. Once the spirit is dreamt by an initiated member of the Poro men’s society, its mask will be carved for the initiate to dance, accompanied by a full-body costume constructed of raffia, feathers and fur.

This fine Mano mask displays a high, protruding forehead, pointed chin and glossy, black patina. Its half-closed eyes suggest a meditative, otherworldly power of perception, and a serenity emphasized by smooth, flowing facial forms. Slight asymmetries of the eyes and other features imbue this mask with a striking sense of realism. Though technically genderless, masks of this type are typically accepted to be feminine entities, personifying idealized beauty and approaching the community to nurture, instruct and delight.

Late 19th century
7 3/4" h 6 1/2" w
Provenance: Ex private US collection
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