French African art coll.
Rare Bassa hybrid sculpture, featuring a dog whose mouth supports a human head. This face reproduces the African mask named Gela , Geh-Naw , from the Bassa ethnic group of Liberia. A second face associated with talisman masks appears in relief on the back of the animal. Object with protective purpose, simialire p.24 in Tribal Art of Black Africa" J.B.Bacquart. Velvety patina, matt, greyish brown. Erosions. Residues of kaolin whitewash.
The Bassa group of Liberia is established on the coastal region, specifically around Grand-Bassa. Its culture and artistic production have been influenced by the neighboring Mande-speaking Dan and Kpelle. The Bassa have female and male initiation societies, including the chu-den-zo which gave rise to this type of sculptural achievement. The geh-naw , or gela , mask was worn on the dancer's forehead, attached to a wicker frame, accompanied by cloths concealing the wearer, and evolved into a graceful dance to mark the completion of the initiation of young boys. They are worn today during ceremonies to welcome distinguished visitors.
Sources: "African Masks", Ed. Adam biro, and "The soul of Africa" S.Diakonoff
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