Tribal art > African mask > Elephant mask
Babanki / Bamoun helmet mask (N° 20639)
Elephant mask with large concave ears, which was worn horizontally. The dancers of the Kuosi society, to which the nobles and warriors belonged, mimicked the charge of the animal during the choreography.
The surface is plated with metal sheets decorated with floral motifs.
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The Babanki live in the north of the region called Cameroonian Grasslands . Their neighbors are the Kom, Wum and Bali. Under the influence of Fulani invaders, many of them converted to Islam.
They revere the ancestors who are said to be embodied in the skulls held by the elders of each lineage. The Grasslands brotherhoods use zoomorphic masks, some decorated with beads, called buffalo masks, and beaded hoods also representing the elephant.
The elders are said to have the power to transform themselves into animals. In some lineages, however, this mask is replaced by the wooden elephant mask. A symbol of prestige for the Fon, these sculptures were also the object of barter and gifts throughout this cultural area. The tusks of the pachyderm belonged exclusively to the chiefs. (Animal, Dapper Museum)