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Bassa Wooden Gela Face Mask

SKU PF.5935
Circa 20 th Century AD
Dimensions 8″ (20.3cm) high x 4.25″ (10.8cm) wide
Medium Wood
Origin Liberia


Bassa territory lies in the middle of the modern nation of Liberia. Their economy is based on rice that they cultivate around small villages, each possessing a population of around two hundred people. Bassa artistic tradition has been heavily influenced by their northeastern neighbors, the Dan, who live along the border of the Ivory Coast and Liberia. Bassa carvers are famous for the Gela masks worn during the No men’s society ceremonies when the wearer of the mask moves with feminine grace and elegance. This mask displays a characteristic two-planed face with a protruding mouth replete with carved teeth and semi-closed eyes. Dancers wear them during entertainment ceremonies related to visits of foreign dignitaries and at the end of a boy’s initiation rite. Originally, in its ceremonial context, this mask would have been completed by a cloth or raffia covering that would have further disguised the identity of the dancer. The cloth or raffia fibers would have been wound through the perforated holes that dot the edges of the mask. Overall, the smoothly polished and finely finished surface of this mask is indicative of the highest quality artistry for both the Dan people and the Bassa they so influenced. – (PF.5935)


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