Mask for the Ordehlay (Ode-Lay) or Jollay Society
Arts of Africa
A kotu (masquerade builder) made this mask for a Freetown cultural society, a kind of mutual aid association. These masquerades emerged from Yorùbá practices transplanted from Nigeria during World War I. Cultural (or masquerade) societies and the neighborhoods they support pride themselves on innovation. Like the city of Freetown itself, masquerade-society masks have evolved to reflect new, international influences. The mask’s face shape and “fancy” aesthetic suggest it was created for entertainment. Its dragons reflect the former popularity of Chinese movies and martial arts in Freetown. The snakes likely allude to the transcultural water spirit Mami Wata. Though her origins probably pre-date European contact, her snake-charmer persona draws heavily from a 1955 Indian lithographic reproduction of German posters of nineteenth century Samoan circus performer Maladamatjaute. Just as the Greek-Egyptian god Serapis’ cult spread widely, Freetown masquerades are now performed on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wood, paint, plastic, metal
29 1/2 x 16 15/16 x 8 1/4 in. (75 x 43 x 21 cm)
with mount approx: 34 in. (86.4 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Gross, by exchange
Mask with a human face as a base, from which all sculptural elements are attached. A figure sits at the top of the head; two sets of dragons flank the base. The taller pair, whose heads are separately carved in wood, have crenelated crests. The shorter, lower pair are blunt-nosed and connected by metal wire to the taller pair. Several layers of commercial paint in various colors have been applied to the entire object, with spotted colors of red, blue, yellow, and white painted to both sides of the dragon pairs. The interior of the mask is not painted, with some signs of wear. The crested section on the exterior back of the base has a hole.
This item is not on view
Temne artist. Mask for the Ordehlay (Ode-Lay) or Jollay Society, mid-20th century. Wood, paint, plastic, metal, 29 1/2 x 16 15/16 x 8 1/4 in. (75 x 43 x 21 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Milton Gross, by exchange, 2013.25. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2013.25_PS9.jpg)
overall, 2013.25_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2015
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