Bambara (Bamana, Banmana), Mali
Ceremonial hyena mask. The Bambara number some 2.5 million and form the largest and most powerful ethnic group in the Western Sudan; they live in the open savanna to the southwest of the Dogon. They are dignified people, proud of their warlike past. Nowadays they live principally from agriculture, with some subsidiary hunting and cattle rearing in the northern part of their territory. They strongly uphold their ancient tribal customs against Islam and Christianity. This is a hyena mask used by the agricultural Kore society. The Kore society is a rigidly stratified male initiation group that seeks to bring men to peace with their spirits. Its members achieved a degree of spiritual knowledge that enabled them to experience a mystic union with divine power and enter a perpetual cycle of reincarnation. The hyena was the societys guardian animal. It symbolizes fallible human wisdom. The masks of this type were used both at initiations and at agricultural festivities, in supplications for the fecundity of the earth and sometimes for rain.
Size: H. 21, W. 8½, D. 8½