Elephant Mask (mbap mteng)

Face mask embroidered extensively wtih glass beads. Two long panels hang down the front and back of the wearer. Humanoid face at top has two round eye holes allowing the wearer to see, a strip of fabric for nose and open, upturned mouth. Ears are protruding disks attached on either side of the face . Top of the head is covered with small, corklike knobs covered with black cloth. The beadwork is predominantly green, with intricate, scallop-shaped patterns along edge of panels, and vertical, star-like patterns filling center of the panels. Interior of panels is lined with damask.
Artist Unknown, African, Bamileke Peoples, Cameroon
1950-1999
Stylized images of the elephant abound in the pageantry that surrounded Bamileke kings and men of distinction. The elephant masquerade was danced by members of powerful men’s regulatory societies that oversaw the ritual and judicial affairs of the kingdom. Performed at royal festivals and funerals, these masks honored the authority of leadership and the transcendental forces of the forest.
Gift of Dr. James and Vivian Curtis
1997/1.319
Wednesday, August 5, 2020