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Helmet Mask (Gbetu) with Raffia Costume

Arts of Africa

Gbetu is a men’s masquerade performed primarily for secular entertainment. While a genre owned and performed by men, gbetu is considered to be feminine, as she is seen to “give birth” to small dancing figures that appear to emerge from beneath her raffia skirt, perform, and then return to her folds.

Each mask is owned, controlled, and performed by a specific household (known as a gbonji), and is accompanied by its own proprietary music and choreography. Gbetu dances in a highly energetic, acrobatic manner, advancing in broad swishing motions, making full use of the head-to-toe raffia covering.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment, metal, raffia
DATES early to mid 20th century
DIMENSIONS 93 x 48 in. (236.2 x 121.9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Gift of William C. Siegmann
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Helmet-shaped wooden mask (a) surmounted by long ringed neck with small head at the top. Helmet portion of the mask carved with an arrangement of geometric patterns. Costume consists of two fringes of raffia, one resting around base of mask at dancer’s neck and other larger skirt (b) likely worn around chest or possibly waist.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Gola. Helmet Mask (Gbetu) with Raffia Costume, early to mid 20th century. Wood, pigment, metal, raffia, 93 x 48 in. (236.2 x 121.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William C. Siegmann, 2011.53.1a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2011.53.1a-b_PS6.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2011.53.1a-b_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
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