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Horizontal Mask (Okobuzogui)

Arts of Africa

Becoming Controlled

Because masks take on nonhuman, otherworldly characteristics, they are particularly effective as mediators of power. Despite their capacity for freedom and play, masks can also express social limits, serving as agents of calm in moments of tension or anxiety, or as frightening policers of the community on behalf of those in power.

The Igbudu mask represents the evil forces that can threaten a community. One of the only examples of Yoruba sculptural art that is deliberately unattractive, it features a sharp brow, protruding eyes, and wide mouth—all designed to frighten.

The commanding Loma mask, Okobuzogui, is used by the Poro society, a secret men’s association that serves, among other roles, to initiate boys into adulthood. Poro mythology holds that Okobuzogui “swallows” the boys in his menacing jaws as they leave the village for the initiation camp; he also accompanies them upon their return as young men.

Tugunga headdresses are worn only by those who belong to a secret Bamum society of warriors, known as the Nsoro, who perform at the funerals of important members of the community. The masks impress with their size and grandeur and elicit fear and apprehension since they represent the society charged with adjudicating disputes and protecting the king.
MEDIUM Wood, clay, copper alloy
DATES early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 40 x 14 1/2 x 10 in. (101.6 x 36.8 x 25.4 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE A. Augustus Healy Fund and Designated Purchase Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Horizontal mask with large open jaws showing tongue and teeth. Frontal view of face combines human and crocodile features. Human torso emerges from forehead with stylized arms resembling curved animal forms. Overall crusty patina. Teeth in open jaw are partially eroded, possbily by being chewed off by rodents. Lower portion of proper left arm has been broken off and restored.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Loma. Horizontal Mask (Okobuzogui), early 20th century. Wood, clay, copper alloy, 40 x 14 1/2 x 10 in. (101.6 x 36.8 x 25.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund and Designated Purchase Fund, 2004.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2004.1_PS6.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2004.1_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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