Landai initiation mask. The 200,000 Toma people live in the high-altitude rain forest lying across the Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone border. They organized their political and religious life around the poro association. This society was, among other things, responsible for the initiation of young boys that took place in the forest, which is particularly dense in the land of the Toma. The landai masks symbolized the legendary ancestor and spoke a secret language. They appeared in public when it was time for male youths to be initiated into adulthood. Its image represented the major forest spirit which made manifest the power of poro; one of its duties was symbolically to devour boys at the end of their initiation period in order to give them rebirth as men. Only men wore these masks, which were fitted over the wearer's head horizontally.
Size: H. 15, W. 7, D. 4½