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HOME : African & Tribal Art : African Masks : Sapo Wooden Mask
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Sapo Wooden Mask - PF.3905
Origin: Liberia
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 21" (53.3cm) high x 11" (27.9cm) wide
Collection: African
Style: Sapo
Medium: Wood

Location: United States
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The idea that animals represent spirits of deceased ancestors, or of bush spirits, is widely believed in Africa. This constitutes the basis of totemic cults. The artists who work for these cults often depict ancestral spirits in fantastic and often very imaginative masks. The Sapo sculptors delighted in creating animal-like masks that also have distinctly anthropomorphic qualities. This remarkable mask is breathtaking when first seen. Our sensibilities are shocked because we are suddenly confronted with an object that has few, if any, parallels in Western art. Firstly, there is more than one animal depicted. The horns are those of a gazelle or antelope, as are the long ears; yet the mouth is greatly elongated like a bird's. The eyes, however, are profoundly human and though barely etched in, are beautifully expressive, showing compassion and gentleness. The entire object is constructed with refined balance and symmetry, highly sophisticated in its graceful form. It would probably have been used in an initiation ceremony where young boys would stare awestruck at the wonder of this work of art; as they look towards the future of a new life as young men. - (PF.3905)


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