• TABLE OF CONTENTS
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 Main
 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Preface
 Acknowledgement
 Masks of West Africa
 Preface
 Masques de l'Afrique Occidenta...
 Descriptive notes to the plate...
 Plates






Title: Masks of West Africa
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00001571/00001
 Material Information
Title: Masks of West Africa
Physical Description: vi, 49 p. : illus., map. ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Underwood, Leon, 1890-
Publisher: A. Tiranti
Place of Publication: London
Publication Date: 1948
 Subjects
Subject: Masks (Sculpture)   ( lcsh )
Sculpture -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
General Note: English and French.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00001571
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000686735
notis - ADM7860
oclc - 01080695
lccn - a 49005627

Table of Contents
    Main
        Main
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
    Preface
        Page v
    Acknowledgement
        Page vi
    Masks of West Africa
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
    Preface
        Page 23
        Page 24
    Masques de l'Afrique Occidentale
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
    Descriptive notes to the plates
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
    Plates
        Page 50
        Plate 1
        Plate 2
        Plate 3
        Plate 4
        Plate 5
        Plate 6
        Plate 7
        Plate 8
        Plate 9
        Plate 10
        Plate 11
        Plate 12
        Plate 13
        Plate 14
        Plate 15
        Plate 16
        Plate 17
        Plate 18
        Plate 19
        Plate 20
        Plate 21
        Plate 22
        Plate 23
        Plate 24
        Plate 25
        Plate 26
        Plate 27
        Plate 28
        Plate 29
        Plate 30
        Plate 31
        Plate 32
        Plate 33
        Plate 34
        Plate 35
        Plate 36
        Plate 37
        Plate 38
        Plate 39
        Plate 40
        Plate 41
        Plate 42
        Plate 43
        Plate 44
        Plate 45
        Plate 46
        Plate 47
        Plate 48
Full Text



MASKS OF WEST AFRICA

MASQUES DE L'AFRIQUE OCCIDENTAL






MASQUES DE
L'AFRIQUE
OCCIDENTAL


par
LEON UNDERWOOD





1948
LONDON: ALEC TIRANTI LTD.
NEW YORK: TRANSATLANTIC ARTS, INC.






MASKS OF
WEST AFRICA





LEON UNDERWOOD





1948
LONDON: ALEC TIRANTI LTD.
NEW YORK: TRANSATLANTIC ARTS, INC.








CONTENTS


Preface v
The Mask as Countenance of the Deity 1


Abstract Form in African Masks 7
The Decoration and Use of the Mask in its Proper Setting 10
The Decline of the Common Touch 15
Making the Mask 18



Preface 23
Masques en tant que representations de la Divinitt 25
Rble populaire du masque dans la Religion 26
Forme abstraite des masques africains 30
Le masque dans son just cadre 32
D6clin: l'artiste perd contact avec le commun 36
Fabrication du masques 39



Index and descriptive notes to the plates 43
Map giving provenance of specimens shown 50


Made and printed in Great Britain









PREFACE


The masks of West Africa are the expression of
custom and belief so unfamiliar to the average Euro-
pean that he failed to appreciate them. He saw the
mask as something abstracted from its original back-
ground of expression. Much is lost to him who views
a visual art out of its original frame-even if he is
well informed about the frame. For works of art of
the past are not the isolated products of aesthetics but
the expression of life. They may carry forward from
their background something which is not conveyed
by the ethnological facts, aesthetic theories and tech-
niques; so that the facts-even if we possessed all-
and the theories, would be poor matches for re-
kindling the departed flame of passion and imagina-
tion which originated them.
For many years those Europeans interested in
customs and beliefs could see nothing in African art,
rating it as crude and decadent. It was to the Euro-
pean artist that these works in a forgotten idiom
were at last to speak in the free language of art. One
might say that he took a long time to see the de-
cadence of his own visual art shown up in the vitality
of the Primitive. His tradition had weakened to a
point of collapse under accretions of sophisticated
style before he did so. However primitive art came
to have a new meaning for the artist of Europe, there
is no better approach to it for us than through his
contemporary looking-glass. Regarded in this way,







as something the African carver knew nothing about,
his representations of a population of spirits inhabit-
ing West Africa become for us less credulous Euro-
peans, works of abstract art.
It may be asked what has become of the spirits in
art. Have they been banished by our incredulity? No;
not quite. Their descendent forms in fairy tales still
engage our children of all ages. But they no longer
roam as freely as they did. Withdrawn into the indi-
vidual consciousness, anthropomorphised, they mas-
querade yet, as the joys and persecutions of the Euro-
pean. Were these spirits to look back upon their
world of yesterday they might see, as we are inclined
to do, but little change apart from increasing res-
trictions..
What of European abstract art-does it represent
spirits? It is hardly human and intimate enough to
do that. It is rather an analytical essay in the visual
language of these old spirits and, as such only, will be
our useful intellectual guide among their shadows of
the past.



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Acknowledgments and thanks for permission to reproduce
works are due to the Trustees of the British Museum, The
Royal Scottish Museum, Horniman's Museum, and to Mr.
R. P. Bedford, Mr. M. Cockin, Mr. Basil Jonzen, Mr. J.
Keggie, Mr. H. D. Molesworth, Mr. W. O. Oldman, Mr.
Webster Plass and Mr. R. Sainsbury; and for valuable assist-
ance to Mr. W. B. Fagg.







MASKS OF WEST AFRICA
The Mask as Countenance of the Deity
IN most areas of primitive culture where sculpture
has flourished, the mask has held an important
place, but in none of these has it received more
complete sculptural expression than in West Africa.
Its tradition there continues but feebly now; ever
giving ground before Western penetration. Its primi-
tive strength appealed to the artist of the Western
world, where a declining tradition had reduced its1
expressions to the meaningless grimaces of comedy or
tragedy, carved or painted in our theatre decoration.
To the West African people the mask stood in its ori-
ginal right; as an individual expression of the likeness
of the deity or spirit represented. Most of the masks
come under the term fetish,* as representations of
spirit-deities. The form of the mask was ordered by
religious concepts which permitted to the carver a
latitude of individual expression in his representation
of the spirit-deity. In this respect, the mask has, for
the European, the same claim to existence, as a work
of art as the carved or painted Madonna of Florence
and Venice. But the mask in its African frame of
*As the term fetish applies to the mask frequently, the term totem
sometimes and idol never, brief dictionary definitions of these terms will
help to avoid confusion:
Fetish-representation or habitation of a deity.
Totem-badge of tribe or family.
Idol-object of worship.
Rattray in Religion and Art of the Ashantis says he knows
of no existence of idol carving in Africa.
Junj is a term of uncertain origin and meaning, applied to all
native customs and objects regarded as occult.







dance and ceremony, has not the same separate
existence as the Italian Madonna surrounded by a
gilded moulding. The African mask is not so de-
tachable from its framework-the church in the case
of the Italian Madonna. It is not an idol or identity.
of the deity but a carved representation or counten-
ance; a focus of the broader effect in its elaborate
framework of ritual, in which myth and belief are
ceremonially expressed in music, dance, pageant,
drama and sculpture. The fetish dancer who wears it
is supposed by its aid and his skill to evoke the pres-
ence of the spirit-deity it represents. His or her body
is often covered completely by a costume but for the
small eye-apertures in the mask. In the Bundu
-dance,* of Sierra Leone, the principal taking the part
of the devil covers her body even to stockinged feet
and gloved hands, as a precaution against the "devil"
spirit taking possession of her, when evoked by the
dance.
Even to the casual traveller in Africa, unversed in
the beliefs and customs, dancing stands out as the
ruling passion of the people. It is the form in which
all visual and aural expression has place and origin
or is in some way connected. Head worship or the
cult of the head which is present in various forms all
over Africa, gives to the mask a predominating im-
portance. The head, regarded as the seat of all
human wisdom, is a symbol the meaning of which,
in Europe, belongs to the heart. The mask repre-
SBuand Society, of girls, for instruction in the responsibilities of
adult womanhood. The dance takes place at or after initiation cere-
monies.







sents in a way the countenance of wisdom; in the
case of a "devil" mask, inverted or diabolical wis-
dom. On account of this importance of the head,
the mask, as the piece de resistance of dance and
ceremony, is frequently given grotesque proportions.
Both African and Greek myths have a strong
alliance in primitive belief; but Greek sculpture in
dominating the head or mask by the body, became
almost the reverse of African.* The Greeks, with
'their great admiration of physique, centred their ex-
pression in the muscular features of the body. The
countenance of the deity became suppressed and his
face or mask gained more and more an expression of
immobility. The mask of West Africa maintained a
livelier expression, of a simpler life and less divided
belief. The vitality of the African's direct expression
seemed to continue and develop until it met the cata-
clysm from the West.t
Abstractions of the modern European artist, in-
fluenced by the primitive abstraction of these masks,
appear as a succession of sterile experiments, deriv-
ing from the primitive example, not by a sym-
pathetic growth but by an act of splitting the form
from its content (technique from subject matter-
belief). History shows the artist, when his develop-
ment comes to an impasse, turning his attention to
*Early Greek sculptures of Apollo of the 5th and 6th centuries B.C.
are given a vivacious expression in the face, but this disappears in
later works.
t Although the tribes of West Africa have for an unknown time been
under numerous petty and conflicting despotisms and, for this reason,
have been considered degenerate by some writers, as Mary Kingley
pointed out, it is a primitive race which survives (by adaptation) in
contact with the West.







the past for inspiration. It shows him studying the
past in a new light; searching for any details which
had escaped him and which might help him forward
from a position of stasis; broadening his tradition by
a new reading of the confines of the past. In so far as
African art was seen to make a rigorous selection of
the forms in nature, he regarded it as an abstract"
art. But it does not possess that degree of abstraction
aimed at in the work of the European artist whom it
has influenced. It is not our intention in these pages
to go further into the validity of European abstract
art than may serve to throw light upon the quality of
abstraction in the masks of West Africa.*

The Common Appeal of the Mask in Religion
The distinctive feature about West African masks
is not the indifference of the carver towards natural
forms but the use he makes of them. He simplifies
or abstracts them to express the spiritual world of
belief mirrored in the natural world. In the last
thirty years the European artists' attention has not
been attracted by the African artist's belief but by
his creative handling of natural form, or his sub-
conscious technique. The belief, held commonly by
the African carver and his tribe, made his abstrac-
tions significant and assured him of their acceptance
by all, whereas the European artist lives in an objec-
tive world with no belief ruling enough to give direc-
*Some years ago the term significant form was popularized by writers
on esthetics. Applied to the free abstraction of European art, this term
seems to have no meaning; but applied to the abstraction of African
art it would denote significance of belief.







tion of a commonly accepted significance to his
abstractions. He is constrained therefore to make
the attempt at pure abstractions which focus in the
intellect, debarring them from having the same
common appeal.
Since the soul (for the African, the head) of art is
embedded in African belief we must turn our atten-
tion to the nature of the African's belief in order to
understand the form of his art.
Space forbids us to consider in detail many of the
ceremonies and rituals for which the masks were
made but the motive at the centre of the African's
belief was increase and multiply-the fertility of his
species and of the animal and vegetable on which he
depended. -He put trust in the order he was able to
deduce from the complex and bewildering pheno-
mena of the world about him. He recognized the
cycle of propagation, birth, illness and death as an
implacable rhythm dominating physical existence.
-In ceremony and ritual, he celebrated the four
aspects of this rhythmic cycle; identified in the pat-
tern of the seasons and their influence upon animal
and vegetable life. He regarded 'himself and the
animals as children of a great universal mother
(EARTH). Rain was deified and propitiated for boun-
tiful harvests. Yet there remained in the sensible
world outside this small nucleus of order, a big over-
balance of effects without visible cause. This weighty
surplus that would not fit into a comprehending pat-
tern divided his world into two unequal portions-
the known and unknown. Over the latter world he
had no control but that supplied by his imagination,







which peopled this unknown sphere of two opposing
forces with spirits, of a volition like his own, to work
good or ill. Thus he founded belief and subject-
matter for ritual and art.
One segment of the cycle of life which aroused his
curiosity and escaped his closest examination was the
lapse, the sleep (as of a seed) between death and re-
birth; the realm of Hades, between Demeter and Per-
sephone. The long seminal sleep, seeming like death
in the seed between harvest and replanting, presented
the mystery of a great' unknown. He supposed the
spirit, which left the body at the moment of expira-
tion, to hover in the vicinity of its old habitation--
the corpse, attempting to re-enter it for a time and
then to leave and join the great legion of his ances-
tors in the spirit world. By this means the spirits of
the dead came into contact with the spirits of the un-
known sensible world about him; and were, if so dis-
posed, able to influence these spirits to work things
in this world for the well-being of their living
friends. Ancestor' worship arose as a process by
which the living supplicated the dead to intercede on
their behalf with the control of the unknown world.
Summarily stated, this is the plan on which the
brotherhood of man was founded in African religion.
It has come down to us in little altered form as near
as the Christian era and as late as Roman times.
Primitive man was unable to see in his groping for
order between two powers sensibly opposed, the re-
flection of his own divided vision-objective and sub-
jective outlooks. Before man evolved the doctrine of
the Kingdom of Heaven Within, he sought externally







to reconcile the two opposites in ritual, in divination
and art.
Abstract Form in African Masks
A comparison of the physical natures of the visual
and aural mediums-sculpture and music-will aid
us in our appreciation of the African carver's use of
abstract form. Science has put at the disposal of the
European sculptor an intellectual understanding of
the cube and the sphere--conceptual form. With it
he may construct compositions of "pure" abstract
content. But such abstractions will be passive-that
is from a knowledge without passion to fire the
imagination.
The component parts of a visual composition are
presented t6 the eye simultaneously while, on the
other hand, music by its physical nature presents the
parts of a composition to the ear in a predetermined
sequence. In what way does visual medium inhibit
the European sculptor in making compositions in
pure abstraction and yet permit the degree of abs-
traction familiar in African art; or, in other words,
why is music less dependent upon subject matter?
The ear does not collect the whole image until the
end of a composition in music. In sculpture the eye
is presented with the parts of sculpture simultane-
ously, but it requires to roam over the work and to
dwell upon details separately, before it can take them
all in with the whole. The two mediums, sculpture
and music, appear to deliver to their respective sense-
organs in almost opposite ways. A sculptural compo-
sition may not afford the eye any distraction on its







roaming inspection of the parts; it is required to
make a definite journey on a predetermined route, if
it is to reconstruct an enriched and perfect affirma-
tion of the whole it received at first glance. In short,
the visual artist's difficulty is to achieve this sequence
for the roaming eye; a sequence which in the aural
medium is presented without difficulty. I am not
concerned here with other difficulties in the aural
medium. Compositions in both mediums may require
many repetitions of some notes and values. Form in
either will result only in the absence of confusion. Yet,
in music, the parts may be arranged without regard'to
any law or association but musical law. In the visual'
medium there are certain laws of structure and grav-
ity which impose some sequence on form for the
roaming eye, but these alone are insufficient to give
the necessary strict and compulsory order charac-
teristic of music. Associations of the parts in subject
matter only are capable of extending for the eye, in
the visual medium, the meagre order inherent in the
laws of structure and gravity.
The technical problem in any work of art is that of
imposing order on its parts. It brings us at once up
against the mystery in works of art like West African
masks. Beyond this we may not go in words. What
appears to be certain is that in some mysterious way
subject matter, in any visual work of art, imparts
some less visible track for the roaming eye to find
order in its parts. The track of predetermined
sequence remains, to conduct the eye, no matter how
forgotten and' unfamiliar the subject matter of its
origin becomes. Were this not so, better abstract







sculpture could be picked up in a flint quarry than
made by man.
Any form may be given a variety of inflected
values by contrasts with its opposite or by compari-
sons with its near-variations. Such pure overtones
thus obtained are more easily handled in music for,
in sculpture, form detached from its associations has
no definite sequence for the eye in its parts. Pure
form loses potency in sculptural compositions far less
complex than musical symphonies. There is a limit
set to our apprehension of pure form in nature; we
do not appreciate the immense variety of natural
form in flints; no two are alike, yet their smallest
variation may be given a new significance if associ-
ated with some subject matter. The extension of our
comprehension of form, by its association with sub-
ject matter (belief), gives to primitive sculpture like
that of West Africa the nearest approach it may make
to "pure" music, by increasing the order or time
sequence in its parts. It must be concluded that the
abstract sculpture of West Africa is comparable, in
some degree, to pure" music because of the simpli-
fication it derives from its less tangible subject matter.
The African's inability to appreciate abstract
European art is explained; its values have no mean-
ing for him without his familiar subject matter. His
art is based upon a common appeal, for he is an indi-
vidual without knowing it. The sufficient evidence
collected and arranged by Fraser in The Golden
Bough, draws the inference that notions of primitive
belief and art were fundamentally similar for the
primitive man in prehistoric times and his descend-







ants now scattered over the globe. The characteris-
tics in the art of West Africa here discussed are those
of a later primitive form.*

The Decoration and Use of the Mask in its
Proper Setting
In Africa ritual and dance provide occasion for the
general expression of the people, binding them to-
gether socially in the ceremony of conm on belief.
The rhythm of the drums calling the people to the
dancing place (village green, but for its bare soil) is
irresistible. As the villagers approach, their walking
gait bends to the drum beats. Tiny tots tied to
mother's back respond with rocking shoulders. The
traveller is tempted to cast reserve aside and take
part on the periphery of a gathering of humans cere-
monially engaged in ecstatic ceremonial rejuvenation.
A dancer wearing a fetish mask emerges from a
special hut in which he has been dressed. Maybe, he
is joined by other principals and supporters (a corps
de ballet) whose part-business is to beat off the spirit,
invoked by the devil" dancer, from the crowd of
spectators forming for their part a gyrating outer
circle. The dance-movements of these spectator-
performers are simple responses in sinuous undula-
tions, which bring into play the spine and whole body
by a lateral rocking of the shoulders and hips. This
responsive rhythm of the crowd has often seemed to
The abstractions of prehistoric? art are of formal realism, astonish-
ing in degree. Those in African art are non-realitic. See Preface to
Ffures in Wood, of West Africa.







me to have a homeopathic resemblance to that of the
exertions of the hatching chick and to the rippling
thrust of the thousand corn seedlings breaking
through surface soil.
The mask as the head* is the focus of the dance
expressing the people's faith in fertility. Its distor-
tions of natural form are far from modem European
abstractions. They are confined to fundamental
associations familiar to everyone. The carver is in-
capable of creating free abstractions of natural form
to engage the intellect or decorate the eye. To
decorate for him means to give something which is
part of ordinary life, a visual association in the spirit
world; making the object and subject one-body
and spirit represented together. The mask is an
example of these requirements in his use of decora-
tion. Its use is to conceal the identity of the dancer
from the crowd and its decoration the representation
of the spirit evoked by it. Spirits represented in
mass were credited with rather le wit to see
through the mask thah the average human. The
spectators exercise no critical judgment on the mask
as a carving outside of its setting. Many poor works
get by if they, do not fail to invoke the spirit. Artists
are not selected consciously for any artistic talent.
The fact that the occupation of carver is often
handed down from father to sot accounts for a lot of
indifferent work. A mask is ordered by a priest, and
its consecration in a ceremony properly performed
by him carries its acceptance by the rest In some
SThe head is an enlarged feature in fure carvine also; this ii death
with at more length in FPirsw i neod, f Wtes Afrca.







South Sea areas elaborate masks requiring months of
work by many hands were used only once, burnt at
the end of the ceremony and re-made for the next
occasion; the burning and re-making being an imi-
tation of the cycle of life and death. In West Africa
they are usually kept and stored in a special hut or
under the thatch in a priest's house.
A common form for the mask is some sylvan deity,
human, animal, or quasi-human; combining features
of animal or animals; human face with horns of the
antelope or buffalo (bush cow)-Dionysius of the
Greeks. The spirit world of Africa marks less dis-
tinction between animal and human, and features
abstracted from several species are frequently com-
pounded wifh the human in the same mask (Plate
1, 19, 20,'29, 30). Though the connection for us of
some features with the central idea of fertility may
appear attenuated and obscure, it is usually to be
found. Totems are often incorporated in the masks,
as in the Bambara, Dan, Baule, Fon and Yoruba
reproduced, or added as a kind of heraldic crest
(Plates 2, 14 (the feet remaining), 16a, 19, 20, 22) of
family or sub-tribe, above the countenance of the
spirit (as in Plates 24 and 25). The latter is a rare
example of the janus mask appearing in animal form.
Its two totems, the leopard and scorpion, may be seen
poised on the muzzles'of the two-headed bush cow(?).
Of the third totem, originally perched on the united
poll, only the pin remains to show where it stood.
Masks were used in a ritual dramatising the cere-
monial transition of youths to manhood at puberty
as death and rebirth (Plate 46). Youths attend to







wear ghost-masks in a ceremonial death, by burial in
an underground passage. After a course of instruc-
tion and ordeals, conducted by priests wearing the
grotesque masks of various emanations of the guid-
ing spirit, they emerge at the other end of the pas-
sage. In final ceremony they cast aside the ghost
masks of ceremonial death which concealed them, to
assume their identities as adults with the full res-
ponsibilities of manhood, and receive a small ivory
carving of the ghost mask as a badge of initiation.
Masks are made not only for ceremony and ritual
but also on a diminutive scale, in various forms, as
representations of spirits divine and ancestral.*
Ivory masks were kept by the Oba of Benin in his
palace chapel, and bronze ones (cire perdue) were
worn at the waistbelt by officers of his court. These
ivory masks of Benin and the life-size heads of bronze
in the round at Ife are considered by some as por-
traits of individuals. For me, they appear primarily
as portrayals of the type-ideal which, incidentally,
may explain their striking uniformity both at Ife and
Benin, as a portrayal of individual features modified
to conform to an ideal concept of beauty. Portraits
in Greek art were done with the same idea. In
Southern Nigeria the mask has expanded into an
elaborate figure composition (Plates 26, 27, 32, 33).
The janus-faced divinity of the Elepa masks of the
SThe finely carved ivory masks of the Bini (one in the British
Mueum) and the small bronze masks (both of these about half life size>
probably have ancestral meaning. The mask of Ifa which appears on
the divination trays of the. Yorbas of Nigeria and Dahomey is of a
divinity-god of divination.
The ivory masks of Benin and brone heads of Ife are among the
mont realiic examples of West African art.







Yorubas becomes a stylised and subordinate hood for
the dancer's head, and a platform for the support of
the figures above. Other masks (Plates 32 and 33)
leave out of the carving the actual mask of the divin-
ity altogether.. It may have been rendered, in stylised
form, on the fabric before the wearer's face. These
large masks of Nigeria are carved in one piece,
usually coloured, and often very weighty.
Treatment of the surface by patination, dyeing
and colouring and the application of other materials
to masks is general Dressings of palm oil, gums,
cam-wood and blood are used for patination, and for
colouring simple earth and vegetable pigments were
used until European commerce placed the more
garish colours of metal-base pigments upon the native
markets. The old colours used were red, tukla
(powdered cam-wood); the ochres, red and yellow;
white (kaolin), black (soot), and indigo. Reckitt's
blue, commercial washing blue, came very early to
the West Coast as an article of European trade and is
'found on much old work. It is the chromes and oil
colours of the Public Works Department's stores and
latter-day trade which have destroyed the colour har-
mony. Colour was used symbolically, red symbolis-
ing the earth which in West Africa is red-tinted by
the abundance of laterite in the soil. he Yonrbas
used red as a ground colour for the Elepa (Plates 27a
and 27b) mask and its figures; the surrounds of the
eyes were picked out in white (kaolin), the ghost "
colour, and this and black were used freely to relieve
and emphasise the carved form generally. Blue-
the indigo dye-the Yorubas associated with the sky







god, Olorun, the owner of the heavens, and confined
its use to the head, hair or head-dress, as in the
Shongo figures and the Ibegi twins.
The Decline of the Common Touch
So soon as a traditional carver is made art-
conscious-by European notions of art as something
specialised-apart from ordinary life-his powers of
expression decline. The decline of tradition dates
work. It is nigh impossible therefore in the absence
of it or without other evidence of contact with the
Western world, to set a date on African work.
Bamboya, the Yorubascarver of Omu, Ilorin, pro-
vince of Nigeria, who carved the Elepa mask in Plate
27 when he was a young man, may be taken as an
example. -There are others. He produced this mask
and many other fine works over thirty years ago
when he did not know he was an artist. Early in the
century the first Government experimental school
was opened in Bamboya's village of Omu.* Mr.
J, D. Clarke, concerned about the preservation of the
Yoruba tradition of carving under a system of educa-
tion, persuaded Bamboya to come to the school twice
a week to instruct the boys in his art. The boys cut
wood in the forest, replaced it by planting and pro-
ceeded to work on traditional lines at Bamboya's
direction. But here was something lacking. The
work done subsequently by both boys and their
master suffered. It acquired an art-consciousness,
parting from the ordinary position of art in African
For further details see Os: as Ajricas speriment it Edua-
io., by J. D. Clarke, Superintendent of ducatio, Nigeria, B.W.A.
15







life, and soon became typical of the meritorious
though lifeless york in European art-craftsmanship
exhibitions. Bamboya is incapable pow of produc-
ing work like that he did under the old tribal condi-
tions. His pupils did not pick up the expression of
his old work. The Ifa (divination) tables he carves
to-day, to supply a certain demand among the whites
for use as occasional tables, have lost the liveliness of
their prototypes though they retain their carver's
skill. The passing of the plastic arts and the mask
is bound up in a general decline. A good idea of this
may be conveyed by the following passages. They
are quoted from Omu by Mr. J. D. Clarke; an
account of the experiment he conducted so sym-
pathetically as a superintendent of native education.
TaH SCOOL FAR (Chap. VI, p. 36). To reproduce life
and produce it plentifully is the instinctive aim of all living
things. Here, in Africa, .in contrast with the less favoured
parts of the world, the urge has been so little frustrated by
Nature that the African is correspondingly deeply upset when
it is upset by man. I believe this is at the root of one of the
chief ills from which a part'of African society suffers at the
present time. The link between the individual and the soil
in some cases been severed.* The peasant Yoruba is a
creator or at least a participator in creation. If town life and
what he has been given as education cut him off from all con-
tact with the earth he often becomes a poor creature, lacking
the manners and initiations, the possessor of nothing better
than a pronounced inferiority complex. The u phsticaed
peasant lacks many things, but contact with the fruitful earth
*The italics are mine, marking the fulcrum of what Mr. Clarke has
to say. When the African partakes of the fruit of the Western tree of
lkowledge he falls from grace in artistic expression The remainder of
Mr. Clarke's statement quoted go to show how it appeared to a sym-
pathetic educationalist in detail.







gives him confidence, good manners; he is a man among men,
be they black or white."
"THE BOYs' THEATrB (Chap. XIV, p. 95)." (Clarke's
comment comes after his quotation from the Rev. Denis. I
give both.) "The Rev. Denis, Shropshire, in the Journal of
the African Society (1933) went as far as to say that: 'There
is a possible hint in some of the folk tales of this race that it
may have potentialities more far reaching than anything to
which the present civilised nations have attained. There is
at least a suggestion that it may attain to the secret of that
active passivity which transcends the mere fussy activity which
loes life in an effort to find it, as seems to be the case with
the energia of the West'
"Whether this is so is open to question, but such an atti-
tude is as commendable as the belief that only from the out-
side can the African be uplifted."
After this comment, Clarke comes to the point
again on the subject of the common appeal of expres-
sion in the arts being rooted in the soil.
"Those who are experenting with English drama should
consider a recent article in the Spectator (February 1st, 1935)
in which it was pointed out that the earliest form of modern
drama, the miracle play, was, like the classical drama, an art
for all, and drew its audience from every class. Since the
Renaissance both subject and treatment have drifted away
from the masse until art now appeals only to a coterie, not
the crowd. The drama has shared in this isolation and
suffered as all art suffers when its appeal is limited."
These quotations show us how art among the
Yorubas has declined in recent years. They also
illustrate how important was the art of the mask, in
the texture of ancient African life.*
In the trading days of Liverpool, many traditional
*A good point is made in comparing the common touch which drama
had in Europe with ritual dance in Wet Africa.






works were exported, as curios: and later the African
art trade in Paris and London took many more. But
many which escaped, hidden in remote places, are
left for the white ant to destroy. The exodus of
traditional work has by hazard preserved much that
is fine, eventually, I hope, to find its way back to
Africa. For if the rising generations in Africa are
destined to acquire art-consciousness from the West,
they should have some of their traditional work for
study. At present they have little of it and know far
less about it than we do.
Making the Mask
Where the whole of life is conditioned by its con-
nection with multitude of spirits, the making of a
mask is as much involved with ritual as its use when
made. Spirits are to be consulted at the juncture of
every decision and at almost every action. To live
circumspectly-doing the right thing in the right
place, and thereby evading the spirits' and the neigh-
bours' wrath-requires a profound knowledge of res-
triction and taboo. It is doubtful if the volume of
knowledge required to toe the line in a form-filling
democracy would be extensive enough to see one
through in primitive society. Yet, in spite of so much
restriction, there is very little that may not be done
in either state, if one has the wit to act in the circum-
stances with sufficient decorum ceremony. In the
one case a priest is consulted, in the other a lawyer.
The forest where grows the wood of the mask is
a living realm ruled by a population of venerated
spirits. Man is but a part of this living realm. To







cut down a tree, therefore, without proper ceremony
and propitiation rites, might give dire offence to the
spirits. A priest must be consulted, He in turn may
consult the spirits of the trees, ask their forgiveness
for what is explained as a necessary act of destruc-
tion. In some cases the carver must use tools used
for no other purpose,* and they too must be blessed
by the priest-perhaps with sacrifice. Before be-
ginning a representation of a higher divinity, a carver
may have to undergo purification; and observe
abstinence, may be for a long period, before, during,
and after completion of the work. To cut down a
tree is to take life, which means to dislodge a spirit
from its abode. A spirit so abused, if not placated,
might act revengefully against the offender, his kins-
folk or whole tribe. The priest employs deceit. A
tree when cut down may have to lie where it fell for
some time, until its dislodged spirit is weary and de-
parted from the site, when the tree is removed by
another. But all this and any subsequent ceremony
on the finished work does not appear to confer any
implacable sanctity upon it. It is but an inert fetish;
an instrument consecrated for the invocation of
spirits. This accounts for the African parting so
readily with a lot of the traditional work previously
mentioned.t
A Yoruba chief produced some fine masks for
me to see, from beneath the thatch 'of a priest's
*See carvers' tools, Relifion ad Art of the Aushango-Rttray.
tR E. Dennet, Behind the BlaRc Me 's Mi d, says that it is cus-
tomary, among the Bavili on the Cono o parting with fetishes to
Stranger, to de-consecrate them. Thi s similar to the d-coasecration
of property for ale in the Christian Church.






house off the beaten track. He would not part
with them (though he was not against the sale of
such things) because, he said, they were associated
with a sacred ceremony. Actually these particular
masks would have been better sold, and new ones
made, for the carver was living and the masks were
being eaten by the white ant. But the chiefs reason
for not parting with them was a matter of con-
venience. The carver was a small farmer and the
time was when all men were wanted on the land. He
could not be spared from the land to act, in his reli-
gious capacity, as carver of masks before the mask
would be wanted again in ceremony. There is a
diffidence about making such things for commerce.
Where this is removed-as it is in the coastal areas-
the work declines and assumes the lifelessness of
hand-made mass production. Solemnity is invested
in the making of the mhsk and its use in religion, and
is not attached to the mask itself at other times. The
significance of the mask is its part in the ceremony
in which it is but 'one of many instruments-a fetish
object-a work of art.
The actual carving is done by a systematic reduc-
tion of the block, divisible into stages suitable to the
tools, the adze and knife. Procedure is rigid and
inflexible for generations. Mr. Braunholtz, of the
British Museum, obtained from Ikot Ekpene, South-
ern Nigeria, a wooden doll in eight stages of progress.
He tells me he had difficulty in persuading the Ibibio
carves to stop work at each stage and begin again on
another block until the succeeding stage was reached.
The carving is begun with the adze and finished with






the knife.* Procedure become a series of actions in
set sequence, like life which passes in so many stages
marked by rites and ceremonies. To stop work be-
fore completion, and to begin it all over again was,
for this carver, as incomprehensible as such a thing
in life. His confusion at being asked to diverge from
procedure was similar to that of a scholar being in-
terrupted during a mental calculation. He showed
reluctance therefore to simulate the frustration which
incomplete form represented.
The Bagende masks of the Belgian Congo have a
finely woven cloth of fibre to cover the back of the
wearer's head. The same material is embroidered
on the cloth near the forehead, and cut and teasled.
out into a thick pile to represent hair. This treat-
ment of the woven and embroidered hood may be
given a most elaborate form in extension of the
carved mask (Plate 46). The Bundu mask of the
Mendes, Sierra Leone, is in the form of a wooden
hood enveloping the whole head and provided with
holes in a rabbet round the neck to which a fibre
fringe is attached to make close union with the cos-
tume of the wearer (Plate 4). In some cases the
dancer's face is covered by a textile hood on the cos-
tume, and the personification of the fetish spirit con-
sists of a carved totem-crest above it. Every conceiv-
able material scrap obtained by trade is pressed into
service for added expression in the masks. Thin
metal sheet is finely repouss6ed by the mask maker.
*Bamboya, a Yoruba, uses the adze followed by the knife. Tools
vary. The Ashantld of the Gold Coast make use of a few different-
sed gouge.-Ratray, Ruligio d Art of tkh A4shatis.






A European refuse tip with its wealth of glittering
outcast material would gladden the heart of the
mask-maker. Looking-glass had a great attraction
for the fetish artist, with its ghost-like property of
mirroring images and projecting bundles of the sun's
rays. Not being disillusioned by intellectual explana-
tions of such phenomenon he used these with par-
ticular effect in his representations of the spirit world.
The masks of a "Poro devil" in a Poro Society*
dance I saw in Sierra Leone had a large piece of
looking-glass set in leopard's-skin made to flap on the
movements of the dancer's head, so that any of the
faithful, coming close enough to the fetish mask,
might see momentarily his own face reflected in the
mask of his protective deity. As the dancer turned
about, shafts of dancing sunlight were scattered
among the initiates.
Some masks are made of flexible material such as
bark cloth or woven fibre and embroidered with
beads and cowries. A mask of the tribal deity, work-
ed in beads, adorns the crown of the Ogoga of Ikare,
Southern Nigeria. The crown is shaped like a
bishop's mitre and has a long fringe of beads to hang
before his highness's face. The fringe of this crown-
mask varies from its normal purpose in protecting
a dancer from the spirit evoked by his dance, to
screening the 'uler's visage from the vulgar; whose
gaze, it is said, could not bear the divine radiance.

Society for the initiation of youths at puberty.
t The underbark of a tree, beaten out into a fexible sheet and used
for te manufacture of clothing before weaving was adopted.










PREFACE.


Les masques de 'Afrique occidental sont expression de
- coutmes et de croyances si 6trangres & FBuropE e
moyen qu'il manqua de lea appr6cier. II consid6ra le
masque en lui-meme, horse du milieu original d'oh il tire son
exp siaon. On perd beaucpup si on consid&re un art visuel
hos de son cadre original, mem si Fon est bien inform sur
ce cadre, car les uvmres d'art du pass6 ne sont pas ds mani-
festations esthetiques isolmes mais expression de vie. De leur
lieu de provenance elles peuvent apporter quelque chose qui
ne nous est transmis ni par le faits 6thnologiques, ni par as
theories on les techniques esthwtiques; de sorte que les faits-
meme si nous lespossdons tous-et es tbeones seraient de
mauvais brandons pour attiser & nouveau la flamme teinte
de la passion et de imagination qui leur avaient donm
nasiance.
Pendant de nomneuses annaes, les Europens qui tintiro- '
alent au croyances et aux coutfmea ne trouvaent aucun
intrt danm fast africain, le dclarant grossier et decadent,
SC'est Parte europ6em n que cs o unes qui aexprimaient
dama un idims oubli" devaient enfm parer dam le language
libr,de rart On pourrait meme dire qu'il a pris longtemps
a se rendre compete de la decadence de sea arts visuel qui
reortait d'autant mieux n cause de la vitality de Fart primitif.
Sa tradition htait anamiee on point d'etre aniantie sons les
apports des styles frelats avant qu'il s'en apercat Quoiqu'il
on soit, Fart primitif finit par prendre une notvelle sgnifca-
tion pour rartiste europen et nous n'avons pas de meilleure
mthode d'approche que celle qui consist A le voir A travers
le mixoir contemporain de artiste. Vues eous cbt angle,
comme quelque chose de complement inconnu au sculpteur
africain, es representations d'un people d'esprit habitant
lAfrique occidental deviennent aux yeux des Europeens
moins cr6dules des ceuvres d'art abstrait. 11 est possible que
ron deannde ce que sont devenus les esprits dans Fart Ont.







ils 6t6 bannis par notre incrdulit? Non, pas tout A fait.
Dans les contest de fies leurs descendants captivaient encore nos
enfants a tous Ages. Mais ils ne vagabondent plus aussi libre-
ment qu'autrefois. S'etant retires dans la conscience individu-
elle et ayant pris forme humaine, ils font encore une
mascarade pour la joie ou la persecution de 'Europeen. Si
les esprits tournament leur regard sur le monde d'hier, ila n'y
verralent peut-tre, come nous sommes enclins A le fair,
que peu de changement A part des restrictions croissants.
Quant a Iart abstrait europesn, repr6sente-t-il des esprits?
n est A peine assez human ni assez intime pour cel. 11
constitute plut6t un essaianalytique sur eaw esprits ancient dans
le language visuel et comme tel seulement, il nous ser un guide
intellectual utile parmi les fant6mes de leur pas6.








MASQUES DE L'AFRIQUE OCCIDENTALE

SMasques n tant que representations de la Divinitd
D ANS la plupart des regions de culture primitive oh la
sculpture a 6t6 florissante, le masque a tenu une place
important, mais dans aucune region n'a-t-il 6t6 dot6
d'une expression sculpturelle plus complete qu'en Afrique
occidental. Cette tradition se pursuit encore mais seule-
ment d'une manire languissante, abandonnant toujours du
terrain devant la p6n6tration occidental. Son 6nergie primi-
tive a attirE 1'artiste du monde occidental, oi une tradition
sur son d6clin avait r6duit ses expressions aux grimaces idiotes
de la comidie et de la tragddie sous forme de sculpture ou de
peinture sur nos decors de theatre. Pour les peuples de
l'Afrique occidentale le masque existait en soi, par lui-meme,
et repr6sentait Fexpression individuelle de I image de la
divinity ou de 'eprit en question. On d6nomme f6tiches,*
la plupart desnmasques repr6sentant les esprits des dieux. La
forme du masque ktait ordonnee et r6gl6e par des concepts
religieux qui donnaient a chaque sculpteur individuellement
une certain latitude depression dans sa representation de la
divinity. Sous ce rapport, le masque pour 'Europ6en peut
revendiquer le meme droit d'exister en tant qu'euvre d'art
quelaMadone sculpthe ou peinte de Florence et de Venise.
Mais le masque dans son cadre africain de danses et de
cerEmonies n'a pas la meme existence soparde que la Madone
italienne entoure d'une moulure doree. On ne peut d6tacher
le masque africain aussi facilement de son cadre--l'glise dans
le cas de la madone. Ce n'est pas une idole, ni ridentit6 de
la divinity, mais une representation ou une image sculptee;
Cmme le term ftticAk applique fr6quemment an masque, le term
totem quelquefois, et celui d'idele jamai, les definitions braves de eeM
teirm, prices dans le dictionnaire dviteront la confusion:
fIict: representation on demeure de la divinity.
totei : insigne d'une tribu on d'une family.
idolr: objet d'adoration.
Rattray dans Religioe and Art of the Asl atis dit qu'i sa
connaissance il 'exirte pas de sculpture d'idoles en Afrique.
juxj eat un term d'origine et de Menu incertains, qui s'applique a
tous les coutfime et objets indigiOte considers coanme ceuktes.
25







'eat un point de mire i grand effect, avec son cadre recherche
de rites, danm lequele mythe et la croyance sont c6romieuse-
ment exprimds en munque, par la dans, le dramw et la
sculpurr. Le dansur f6tiche qui le porte et cena6, avec
Faide du f6tiche et race & son habilit evoquer la presence
de reprit de la divmitt qu'il repreentei Son corps -que
ce sit un home on une femme est souvent complatament
covert d'un costume 4 'exclusion de petites eiO&es danm l
masque. Das la dane Bundu,* de la Sierra Leone, la
damnuse principle qui joue i rOle du mauvais gdnis m
conv le corps, y comppr les pieds de bas et les main de
gant, comme caution pour empcher respite mauvais de
prendre pouuem d'ele, quand ele Fevoque, en dansact.
Meme pour I voyager fruit, qui 'est pas verst da e It
croyance et les coutOmes africaine, la dame et une des
pamion dominates qui gouvement le people. iCuet I
fome n laquele touted expreion visuell et audiives
trouent leurplace et lur originie ou ment en quique artes
reli es. culte de Ia ttee qui et present sous desa fIai
variEes damn toute Afrique, done au masque une importance
prepondrante. La tte, eonid6r6e comme le sige de oute
sageise huniame, et un symbole dot la signification en
Etrope revient au cour. Le masque repraente en qudeque
sorte le visage de la agesse; dans le cas du masque du diabk,
la sagesse invertie ou diabolique. A cause de Pimportance
qu'on attache A la tEte, on done fr6quemment au masque
S(uiqu'il constitue la piUc de resistance de la danse et des
er monis) des popoo grotesques.
I y a une forte amane, dams le croyances primitives, entire
les mythesgrecs et africains; is la sculpture grecque, en
laiant le corps dominer la tte ou le masque devmwt prque
inverse de la sculpture africaine.t Les gecs, plains d'admira-
tion pour le physique accentuait Fexpressio sur les mucles
du corps. Peu a pen, its supprimrent Pimage de la divinity'
SUe oadcti Bundu de jeaues fille, no vue de s irtroin er le
repoasbilits de la femme. La dane a lieu pendant et apsis le
ctrmonins d'initiatioa.
fas sculptures primitive gqun d'Apolloa au V et VI stcles
avat J.C. revtent une expression aciale de vivacity, qai dispararmat
dam les cnve pouerieure.







qui de plus en plus gagne Fexpression d'immobilit6. Celui du
masque de PAfrique occidental maintient une expression
plus anime, la vie etant plus simple et Ia croyance moirs
divis6e. La vitality de expression directed de IAfricain sembla
continue & se developper jusqu'au cataclysme qui se produisit
lorsqu'il entra en contact avec Poccident*
Les abtractions opres par Partiste europen modenie,
influences. par Iabstraction primitive de ces masques,
semblent n'tre qu'une succession d'expriences strikes,
d6riv6es de Pexemple donna par les primit, semblables non
pas A une greffe mais pluttt A une rupture qti spparerait la
form de son contenu,. (a technique 6pare du ujet -
croyance). L'histoire montre que 1'artiste se tourne vers le
pass en quete d'inspiration quand son evolution Pa amenw
une impasse. Elle Ie montre 6tudiant le passe sons n
nouveau jour; cherchant les moindres details qui lui avaient
6chapp6 et qui pourraient le fair progresser et quitter sa
position statique, tout en elargissant sa tradition par une
nouvelle htudt des confins du past. Tant que Fart africain
operait une selection rigourese de forces pries de
la nature, i" le conmiddrait come un art arMit. Mais
quoiqui ait influx sur ronvre deaartiate europeen il n'en
po ue pas Le degr6 d'abstation. Nos n'avons pas inten-
toa dans ces pages de pousser plus wmat dans la question de
la vWlidit de Part abstrait eur~d st qeil nest n6oessaie de
le fair pour mettre en lumire la quality de l'abstraction
dam les masques de PAfricaine occidntale.t

RBle populaire du'masque dans la RPigion
Le trait distinctif des masques africains n'est pas lindiffer-
ence du sculpteur envers les former naturelles, mais Fusage
Quoique les tribus d'Afrique occidentale aient subi pendant un temps
de durie incertaine, des despotimes nombreux, mequins et cotra-
dictoires et aient he pour cette reason coiddre drgimnrdes par certain
crivains, c'et la race primitive qui survit, come Mary Kingsley le faith
remarquer, en i'adaptant au contact db 1'ouet.
t II y a quelques annBes le term de forrm sipsifative a it0 vulgar
par les auteurt de trait. d'esthttique. AppliquE & abstraction libre
dan I'art europen, ce term n's pas de sens; mais applique i abstrac-
tion de Fart africain, i d6noterait la signification de la croyance.
k I'







qu'il en fait. II les simplifie ou en tire une certain abstraction
qui exprime le monde spiritual de ses croyances tel qu'il est
refl6t6 dans le monde natural. Durant ces trente derniures
ann6es Pattention des artistes europdens, n'a pas 6t6 attire
par les croyances de 'artiste africain, mais par son traitement
crateur des fonnes naturelles, ou par sa technique sub-
consciente. La croyance profess6e en commun par le sculp-
teur africain et sa tribu, rendait ses abstractions significatives
et Iassurait qu'elles seraient accept6es par tbus, tandis que
artiste europ6en habite dans un monde objectif ou aucune
foi n'a un pouvoir suffisant pour donner une direction et un
sens accepted de tous A sea abstractions. Par consequent il est
forc6 de conjuguer ses efforts dans le domaine de 'abstraction
pure do4t le point central est intelligence, ce qui retire A son
ceuvre son caractre populaire.
Puisque I'Ame de Part (pour PAfricaine, la tte) a son siege
dans la croyance africaine, il nous faut turner notre attention
sur la nature .e la croyance de 'Africain afin de comprendre
la forme que prend son art.
Nous n'avons pas la place de consider en detail lea
nombreuses ceremonies et rites pour lesquels talentt faits lea
masques, mais le motif central de la croyance de 'Africain
6tait croissez et multiplied la fertility de I'espoe humaine
et celle des animaux et des v6egtaux don't il d6pendait. II
mettait sa confiance dans l'ordre qu'il pouvait deviner dans
les ph6notnenes complexes et d6concertants qu'il voyait dans
le monde qui l'entourait. II recnnaissait le cycle de propa-
gation, naissance, maladie et mort don't le rythme implacable
dominant existence physique. Par ses cer6monies et ses rites
il c6l6brait les quatre aspects de ce cycle rythmique; identifi6
par le module des saisons et leur influence sur la faune et la
flore. II se consid6rait lui et les animaux come les enfants
d'une mere universelle et puissante LA TERRE. La pluie
etait divinis6e et on lui adressait des prieres propitiatoires
pour obtenir des moissons abondantes. Cependant il restait
dans le monde sensible en dehors de ce petit centre nodal
d'ordre, un 6norme exces d'effets sans causes visible. Ce
surplus pesant qui ne cadrait dans aucun syst&me divisait son
monde en deux moit6es in6gales- le connu et Pinconnu. Sur







cc dernier, il n'avait aucun pouvoir si ce n'est celui do
Imagination, qui peuplait d'esprits cette sphere inconnue de
deux forces opposes. Ceux-ci 6taient dou6s de volition qui
produisait le bien ou le mal. Ainsi il fonda la croyance et la
matiare d'un sujet en rites et en art.
Un sepgent du cycle de la vie qui 6veillait sa curiosity et
6chappait & son examen le plus attentif c'tait le lapse ou le
sommeil (semblable a celui de la graine) entire la mort et la
resurrection; empire d'Hades, entire Dem6trius et Pers6phone.
Le long sommeil seminal, semblable A la mort, dans la graine,
qui s'6coule entire la moikson et les semailles, lui pr6sentait le
mystere du grand inconnu. II imaginait que l'esprit qui
quittait le corps au moment de expiration hantait le voisin-
age de son ancienne demeure, le cadavre, dans un effort A y
pintrer A nouveau pour un temps et puis le quittait et se
joignait A la grande legion d'anctres du monde des esprits.
Par ce moyen, les esprits des morts entraient en contact avec
les esprits du m6nde sensible inconnu qui les environnait. S'ils
y 6taient dios6s ils pouvaient user de leur influence sur ces
esprits pour qu'ils exercent leur pouvoir sur le monde sensible
pour le plus grand, bien de leurs amis sur cette terre. Ainsi
commnenga le culie des ancatres, par lequel les vivants
suppliaient le morts d'intercder pour eux aupres de ceux qui
r6gasent le monde inconnu.
On peut declarer sommairement que tel 6tait le plan sur
lequel la fraternity humane 6tait base dans la religion
africaine. II nouws a 6t transmis squs une forme tres semblable
& une 6poque proche de l'ere chr6tienne et des temps remains.
L'homme primitif ne pouvait distinguer, alors qu'il tatonnait
entire deux puissances sensibles opposes, le reflet de ses proper&
contradictions, les points de vue objectif et subjectif. Avant
que lhomme congoive la doctrine du royaume de Dieu a
fintrieur de lui-mrme, il a cherch6 a r6concilier & rext&rieur
les deux oppose par le rite, la divination et Part.

Forme abstraite des masques africains
Une comparison de la nature physique des arts respective-
ment visuel et auditif -la sculpture et la musique -nous
aidera A appr6cier Pusage de la forme abstraite qu'en faith le
29







sculpteur africain. La science a mis a la disposition du
sculpteur europ6en la comprehension intellectuelle du cube et
de la sphere, autrement dit la conception de forme. Grace A
*lle, il peut Blaborer des compositions purement abstraites.
Mais celles-ci seront passives, si la connaissance est d4pourvue
de la passion qui enflamme imagination.
Les parties constituantes d'une composition visuelle se
pr6sentent A Pceil simultan6ment tandis que, d'un autre c6t6,
a musique, par sa nature physique prsente les parties de la
composition & 1'oreille suivant une succession pr6d6termin6e.
De quelle manire Part visual de la sculpture europ6enne
empiche-t-il )'artite de faire des compostons purement
abstraites et permet-il cependant le degr d'abstraction que
ron rencontre g&n alemnt t dan ar africain? Autrement
dit, potrquoi la musique dpend-elle moins d'un sujt?
L'oreile ne recuile pas toute 'image avant la fn do la
composition musical. En sculpture, Tes diffrentes partial es
preeentnt a reil simultannment mais le regard doit pas~ourir
route ccuvre et considrer tom les details osparJ meant avait
de pouvoir les coordonner tons avec Pid6e d'un tout. Ces
deux arts, la sculpture et la musique, semblant afecter les
organes des ens d'une mani&re presque oppose. Une
composition sculpturelle peut n'offrir au regard aucune
distraction pendant qu'il en consider et en inspect les
parties. L'il est requis de parcourir un trajet dfini d'apres
an itindrire prid6termine, s'il doit reconstruire en une
syntAse parfaite et enrichie impression du tout revue A
premiere vue. Bfre, le problame pour artiste visuel est de
produire cette succession d'impessions sur 'ceil qui pacourt
son cenvre i loisir, succession qu'offre la musique sans aucune
difficult& Les tes difficult que prdsente la musique ne
nowu concernent pas ici. Dans ces deux arts, la composition
peut exiger de norbreuses repetitions de certaines notes ou
valeur. Che les deux, la forme ne rzsultera qu'en 'absence
de confusion. Pourtant, en musique, les parties peuvent tre
organizes, sans regard k aucune loi ou & aucune association si
ce nest la loi musical. Dans les arts visuels, il y a certaines
lois de structure et de gravity qui imposent un certain ordre
A la forme, a rceil qua observe, mais celles-ci ne sont pas
5,







suffisantes pour produire l'ordre strict, n6cessaire et obligatoire
qui caract ise la musique. L'association des parties dans le
sujet est seule capable de produire pour 1'il, dans rart isuel,
le semblant d'ordre qui est inherent aux lois de la structure et
de la gravity.
Le problbme technique dans toute ceuvre d'art est d'imposer
'ordre A ses parties. Cela nous am&ne tout de suite a ce
mystire dans les ceuvres d'art telles que les masques de
l'Afrique occidental. Au deli de ga les mots ne peuvent nous
conduire. Ce qui semble certain cest que, de quelque
myst&rieuse fagon le sujet de toute ceuvre d'art visuel conf6re
moins de cette clart6 grAce a laquelle 'ceil peut retrouver
rordre des parties. Cet ordre prddtermin6 demeure pour
guider 'cil, meme si le sujet a quoi il doit son origin tombe
danm Poubli et la d6suwtude. S'l n'en Stait ainsi on pourait
trouver de meilleurs examples de sculpture abstraite dan une
carribre de pierre que ceux qui sont products par lhomme.
Toute former peut etre dot6e de valeurs infl6chies par
contrast avec son contraire ou par comparison avec des
variations proches. De tells surcharges de tons sont plus
facilement manides en musique, car en sculpture, la former
d6tach6e de ses associations n'a' pas, pour ceil, de succession
dans ses parties qui soit dfinie. La forme pure perd de sa
puissance, danm des compositions sculptures bien mins
complexes que des symphonies musicales. Une limited a e6t
fixee i notre conception de ce qu'est la forme pure dans la
nature; nous n'appricions pas la vari6t6 immense de la formne
naturelle dans les roches; il n'y en a pas deux qui soient
semblables, pourtant leur moindre variation peut etre dou6e
d'une signification nouvelle si on l'associe avec un certain
sujet. L'envergure de notre conception de forme, grace A
son association avec le sujet (croyance) rapproche le plus la
sculpture primitif tell que iafricain de la musique pure, en
accroissant 'ordre de ses parties ou son. rythme. On doit
conclure que la sculpture abstraite de''Afrique occidental
est comparable jusqu' un certain point A la musique pure a
cause de la simplification qu'elle derive de son sujet original.
L'impossibilit6 oh est 'Africain d'apprcier ,'art abstrait
europen s'explique; celui-ci n'a pas de sens pour lui si ron
a1







en autrait le sujet qui lui est familiar. Son art est bas sur
le fait qu'il s'adresse A la communaut6, car il a de rindividu-
alitz sans le savoir. Les preuves suffisantes r6unies et ordonnes
par Fraser dans The Golden Bough impliquent que les
croyances dans 'art primitifs 6taient semblables, au fond, pour
les primitifs des temps pr6historiques et pour ses descendants
dissmin6s sur le globe. Les caractrisques de 'art de flAfrique
occidentale discutdes ici sont celles dune former primitive plus
recent.*
Le masque dans son just cadre
En Afrique, les rites et la danse fournissent au people une
occasion de s'exprimer en chceur et de participer A une cr-
monie qui temoigne d'une croyance commune. Le rythme
des tambours qui appellent le people sur la place oh ron dame
(une place comme la pelouse du village anglais si le sol n'etait
nu) est irresistible. Au fur et a measure que les villageoi
t'approchent, leur demarche saccorde au batterment du
tambour. Les jeunes enfants, attaches an dos de leur mare
r6pondent en balangant leurs Epaules Le voyageur est tent6
de rejeter toute reserve et de prendre part, A la p6ripherie, i
cette reunion d'hommes qui se laissent ainsi aller l'ivresse
d'une cermonie de rajeunissement.
Un danseur portant un masque de fetiche emerge d'une
cabane spEciale oh il s'est habill. II est possible qu'il soit
rejoint par d'autres etoiles ou danseurs (corps-de ballet) don't
le r61e est de chasser Pesprit invoque par le danseur mauvais
genie, de la foule de spectateurs qui a leur tour forment une
ronde l'ext6rieur. Les movements de danse de ces crore-
graphes qui sont A la fois les spectateurs sont de simple
r6ponses, des ondulations sinueuses qui mettent en jeu la
colonne vertEbrale et tout le corps par un balancement lateral
des epaules et des hanches Le rythme responsif de la foule
m'a souvent sembli avoir une resemblance homeopathique
avec les efforts du poulet qui va eclore et la poussee
murmurante des milliers de grains de bl6 qui sortent de terre.
*Les abstractions de Part prdhistorique sont d'un rialisme de forms
murprenante. Cells de Part africain ne sont pas rtaliste. Voir Pre-
face a StftttwM ea Baei.







Le masque sous forme de tte* est le point central de la
danme qui exprime la foi du people en la fertilt. Dans ce
masque, ls distorsios de la forme naturelle sont loin des
abstractions modernes europ6ennes. Elles a lmitent a des
associations fondamentales families A cbacun. Le sculpteur
est incapable de crier des abstractions de la forme naturelle
qui sent spontan6es et qui mettent en jeu )'intelligence et
plaisent Ai I'il par leur decoration. Dcorer pour lui 'est
donner quelque chose qui fase parties de la vie de tous les
jours, qui soit une association visuelle dans le monde des
esprits; cette association unit l'objet et le sujet-le corps et
esprit sent represent6es ensemble. Le masque--qu est
dcora -eat un example de cs conditions requires Lusage
de la decoration consist A catcher Pidentit du danseur a la
foule et a repr6senter esprit qu'il voque. Les esprits repre-
sentEa par les masques etaient census avoir moins d'esprit quo
les humans pour voir A travel le masque. Les spectateur
n'exerce pas de jugement critique sur le masque et la sculpture
en dehors de son cadre. Beaucoup d'euvres de peu de valeur
parent encore pourvu qu'elles ne manquent pas d'invoquer
resprit Les artistes ne sont pas choisis dlibirement I cause
de lr talent artistique. Le fait que le m6tier de aculpteur
st souvent tranm is de pre en fis est la cause de beaucoup
d'oeuvres sans valeur. Un prctre command un masque, et
as consecration est une c&emonie cE6hbr6e par le prctre
suivant des rites qui le font accepted par le rest. Dans cer-
taines regions de la Polyn6sie, des masques tris orns qui
exigeaient des mois de travail de nombreuses mains n'&taient
utilis6s qu'une fois, britls a la fin de la c6r6monie et refaits A
chaque occasion; la destruction par le feu et la nouvelle
purification tant une imitation du cycle de la vie et de la
mort. En Afrique occidental, on les conserve souvent dan
une cabane spciale ou sous le chaume ches un pretre.
Une forme commune de masque est celle d'une divinity
foresti&re, humaine, animal ou-quasi humane combinant les
traits de animal ou des animaux; une figure humaine avec des
corner d'antilope ou debufle des Dionysos des Grecs. Le monde
des esprits en Afrique marque moins de distinction entire
*La tte est exagirde aussi dans la sculpture des fgurines; ceci a Wtd
traits plus implement dans Statuiret de beos, 'Afrriquw Ocetiatle.







Animal et hommee, et les traits tird de plusieura esjpicesont
omnbin6s fr6quemment avec ccux de I'espce humane sur le
mhane masque (photos 1, 19, 20, 29, 30). Bien qu'a nos yeux
le rapport de certain traits avec lide central de fertility
puisse parattre lointain et obscur, on peut en gdn6ral l'y
trouver. Les totems soot souvent incporpIs dans les masques,
come chess les Bambara, les Dan, les Baule, les Fon et lea
Yorubes, reproduits ou ajoutes come une sorte de blason
hraldique de famlle (photos 2 14, 16a, 19, 20, 22) ou de
sous-tribu au-dessus de la repr6aentation de esprit comee
dam le photo 24 et 25). Cette den re est un rare example
du masque de Janus sous une forme animal. On peut voir
lea deux totems, le 6opard et I scorpion, perchia sr le
museau du buffle(?) A deux tetes Du troisime totem,
originllement situ6 au sommet, ii ne rest que U'pingle qui
montre oil il 6tait.
On utilisait les masques dans une chrmonie qui repr-
ntait dramatiquement la transition que les adoleaents
traversaient a la pubere, les symbolees tant la mort et la
reincarnation (photo 46). Les jeunes gens snt presents et
portent des masques de fantOmes dans ne c6r6monie sym-
bolisant la mort par r'enevelissement danm n passage sou-
terrain. Apss une p6riode d'instruction et d'preuves,
conduits par les pretres portant de grotesques masques 6mana-
tions variEs do I'esprit tutaire, ils emergent a PIautoe bout
du passage souterraui. Dans la cr&monie finale, ils rejettent
le masques fant8matiques de la cdremonie de la mort qui les
cachaient, ain d'assumer Fidentit6 d'adultes avec les responsa-
biites entines de la virilitd et ils recoivent une petite muvre
an ivoire sculpt du masque duf fantame come insigne de
leur initiation. Les masques sont faites non seulement pour
la c&rEmonie et le rituel, mais ausi sur une petite echele dans
des former varies et r6pr6setent des esprits divins et
ancestraux.* Des masques d'ivoire Etaient gardis par 'Oba de
Le masques Bini finement sculpts (Pun d'eux s trouve au British
Museum) et les petit masques de bronze (tous deux moltit de grandeur
naturelle) ont probablement one signification ancestrale. Le muque
d'lfa qui apparait sur lea plateaux de divination des yorbes de la
Nigeria et dv Dahomey est celui d'ue divinit6-le dieu de la divina-
tion. Les mumques divoire de Benin et les tite de bronze d'Ifa sont
parmi le specimens Il plus rdaliste de 'art de TAfrique accidentale
14







Bein dans la chapelle de son palai, et les officers de sa court
portaient A la cemture des maques de bronze (cire perdu).
Ces masques d'ivoire de Bnin et les tetes de bronze en bosse
de grandeur naturelle sont consid6r6s par certain come
6tant des portraits individuals. Pour moi, is me semblent
&tre d'abord des images du type ideal, ce qui peut, incidem-
meat, expliquer leur uniformit frappante tant A Ife comme
a Benin avec les traits d'un individu modifies de telle fagon
qu'ils se conforment & une conception idale de beauty. Les
portraits, chez les Grecs, avaient t6 inspires par la meme
pense. Dans la Nigeria du sud, le masque a pris de
'nvergure et est devenu une composition anim6e (photos 26,
27, 32, 33). La divinity a tSte de Janus des masques d'Elepe
des yorubes devient une cagoule stylisee relie A la tete du
danseur par une plateforme qui soutient des figurines qui Is
surmontent. D'autres masques (photos 32, 33) aissent tout a
fait de c8t6 la representation de la divinit6. Elle a pu etre
repr6sent6e sous une forme stylis6e sur le tissue qu le danseur
porte sur la figure. Ces grands masques de la Nigeria sont
sculpts tout dune pi6ce, ordinairement en couleurs et sent
souvent trAs lourds
Une certain patii, peinture et coloration et d'autepro-
daits soat souvent appliques sur la surface des masques. Pour
la patine, o se sert d'huile de palme, de gomme, de bois de
cam et de sang; pour la coloration, de la terre et des pigments
veg6taux 6taient utilis6s avant que le commerce europ6en
n'eOt mis sur les marches indighnes les couleurs plus voyantes
& base de pigments m6talliques. Les anciennes couleurs
utilis6es 6taient du rouge, le tukula (bois de cam pulvris),
des ocres, rouge et jaune, du blanc (kaolin), du noir (de la
stie), et de l'indigo. Le bleu Reckitt, semblable au bleu de
lessive, fut apport6 tries tot, sur la c6te occidentale, come
product commercial europeen et se trouve sur pas mal
d'ceuvres anciennes. Ce sont les chromes et les couleurs a
'huile du Bazar des Entreprises de Travaux Publics ou autre
maison commercial plus rcente, qui ont d6truit harmoniese
des couleurs. On utilisait a couleur symboliquement, le
rouge symbolisant la terre qui, en Afrique occidental, est
teint6e de rouge a cause de labondance d la latrite dans le







sol. Les Yorubes se servaient du rouge come fond pour le
masque d'Elepe (photos 27a, 27b) et ses figurines. Le tour des
yeux tait soulign6 de blanc (kaolin), couleur des fantznes, et
celui-ci et le noir Etaient employs lib6ralement pour mettre
en relief et rehausser en quelque sorte la forme sculpt6e. Le
bleu--ou teinture d'indigo-les Yorubes assocaient avec
le Dieu du del, Olorun, maitre des cieux, et limitaient son
usage la ttte, A la chevelure ou a la coiffure, come damn
lea fguin de Shongo et les jumeaux d'Ibegi.

Ddclin: Partite perd contact ave le common
DT qu'un aculpteur traditionalist est rendu conscient de
ce quest Fart--qui d'aprts lea notions europ6ennes eat
quetque chose de p6cialis qui eat horse du common a
puiasance d'expression decline. C'et le d6cli de la tradition
qui date une oeuvre. H est done quasiment impossible en
'absence d'une tradition ou sa npretve de contact avec I
monde occidental de fixer ne date & ue ~ue africaine.
Bamboya, ce sculpteur yorube d'Omu, Ilorin, province de Il
Nigeria, qui a sculpt le masque d'Elepe (photo 27) quand it
etait jeune home, peut tre pris en example. I y en a
d'autres. II fit ce masque et ben d'autres ceuvres remarqu-
ables il y a plus de trente ans quand il ne savait pas qu'il etait
un artiste. Au debut du sidle, la premiere Ecole expei-
mentale du government s'ouvrit au village de Bamboya, A
Omu.* Mr. J. D. Clarke, qui tensit A preserver la tradition
yorube en sculpture, sous un aystEme cd6ducation, persuade
Bamboya & venir deux fois par semaine i l6cole pour
enseigner son art aux gargoo. Ceux-i abattaient du bois
dans la fort, le remplagaiat par de nouvelles plantations et
se mettaient au travail uivant les directives traditionalists de
Bamboya, mais quelque chose manquait. Le travail accompli
par la suite par les 6ves et leur mattre n souffrit. 11 deviant
conscient de lui-meme en tant qu'art, spare de la position
ordinaire de Part dam la vie africaine, il devint bientat
examplee typique du travail m6ritoire mais anemique da
expositions europ6ennes artisanales. Bamboya est maintenant
*Pour autret detail voyez Omu; a& Africes n primnts is Sduc4-
tio par I. D. Clarke, Direeter d'Edutioo, Nigena, B.WA.







incapable de produire des euvres telles que cells qu'il
accomplissait sous les conditions de vie de la tribu. Ses 6 eves
ne saisissaient pas Fexpression don't 6tait empreint son travail
pass. Les tables d'Ifa (divination) qu'il sculpte de nos jours,
pour satisfaire & une certain demand che les blancs et qui
servent de tables volantes ont perdu la vie de leurs prototypes
bien qu'on y trouve encore preuve du talent du sculpteur. Le
d6clin des arts plastiques et du masque et corollaire au dclin
general. Lea exemps suivants en donnent une idWe just.
Ils sont tis d'Omu par J. D. Clarke et sont des r6cits de
Pentreprise que Fauteur condiusit avec tant de tact et de com-
prension commune directeur de education indig&ne.
La FRaus-EOOLs (chapitre Vi p. 36). Reproduire la vie,
et le fair abondamment est le but instructif de tous les tres
vivants. Ici, en Afrique, par contrast avec les regions du
monde moins favorites, cette impulsion a ete si peu frustrde
par la nature que 'Africain est d'autant plus boulevers
quand hommee y met obstacle. Je suis convaincu que ceci
est i la racine de Iun des principaux flaux don't souffre une
parties de la soci6t6 africaine do nos jours. Le lie entire
findividu vf le so a id brisi en certain cas.* Le paysan
yorube est un createur ou du moins participe a la creation.
Si la vie urbaine et ce qu'on lui donn& come education le
parent de tout contact avec la terre, ii devient souvent une
malbeureuse creature a qui manque lea manires et Pinitiation
et qui ne possEde rien de mieux qu'un complex d'inf6riot6.
11 manque beaucoup au paysan naif, man son contact avec
la terre feconde lui donne confiance en soi-meme et de bones
manires; c'est un home parmi les homes, qu'il sit noir
on blanc."
L TnmATRE D a OGASONs (chapitte XIV, p. 95). (Les
reflexions de Clarke suivent une citation qu'il done du Rev.
Denis. Je les done toutes deux)" Le Reverend Denis, Shrop-
shire, dans le Journal de la Sociti Africaine (1933) alla
jusqu't dire cela: 'Une allusion possible continue dans
L'auteur souligne ce passage pour marque le point central de ce
que Mr. Clarke vcut dire. Quand Africain mange du fruit de 'arbre
de la connaissance oecidentale il perd la grAee d son expresion artisti-
que. La quite sert montrer ce don't il returalt de lavis d'un 6duca-
teur Clair&.







certins des rcits des peuples de cotte race declare qu'elle a
peut tre une mission de plus grande envergure que celle d6ji
remplie par les nations actuellement dcvis6es. II y a au
moins une suggestion qu'elle pourra atteindre au secret de
ette passivity active qui transcend la simple activity futile,
aquele gaspille la vie dans son effort A a chercher, come
cels mble en etre e cas chez les peuples plus Energiques de
rociden.' Ceci est discutable mais ce raisonnement a autant
de valeur qui celui qui consists a croire que c'est seulement du
debor que 1'Afrique peut tre veve."
Apre ce commentatre, Clarke revient au fait en disant que
Fart qui plait A tous a ses racines das le sol.
"Ceux qui font des esais dans le domain du drama
anglais devraient rffl6cher A un artile r6cemment public dans
Ie Spectator (ler Ferrier, 1935) dans lequel on fait remarquer
que la former primitive du drame moderne, le mystere, tait
come le dame classique, un art qut s'adressait a tous et
attirait un auditoire tir de toutes le classes. Depuis la
Renaissance le sujet ainsi que la manihre de le traiter se sont
deartd de la masse de sort que 'art maintenant ne platt plus
qu'i une coterie et non A la foul. Le drame a partag6 cet
isolement et en a souffert conmme cela arrive a tout art qui ne
'adresse qu'& un cercle limit."
Ces citations nous montrint combien rart chez les Yorubes
a d6clinH pendant ces dernimres annes. Elles montrent ussi
combien Part de masque dtait important dans la trame de la
vie africaine passe.*
Dan les temps du negoce de Liverpool,. de nombreues
uvres d'art traditionalists furent export6es, come curios-
it/s; et plus tard le traffic de rart africain de Paris et de
Londres en absorb bien davantage. Mais beaucoup de ces
ceuvres qui avaient echapp6, caches dans des lieux retires,
furent abandonnees au termite et detruites par lui L'exode
de 'oeuvre traditionalist a par chance, prEserv6 bien des
chefd'eeuvres et j'espre qu'eventuellement, elles reprendront
le chemin de 1Afrique. Car si les generations montantes
*On peut fair rapprochement just en comparant les relations du
people etda drame en Europe et du people et de la dans en Afrique
occddentale.







d'Afrique sont destinies & etre 6duqu6es par lOccident en
art, eles devraient pouvoir 'inspirer de leurs euvres tradi-
tionalistes dans leur 6tude. A present, elles n posnddent trs
peu et connaissent leur art beaucoup moins quo nous.

Fabrication #u masques.
Lorsque la vie entire est soumise A des rapports avec une
multitude d'esprits, la confection d'un masque comprend
autant de rites que usage qu'on en fait une fois qu'il eat
achev6. On doit consulter les esprits avant de prendre toute
decision et presqu'avant chaque action. Vivre avec circonpec-
tion-c'es-a-dire fire ce qui est bien au moment qui con-
vient et par I& 6viter Ia colre des esprits ou des voisi -
n6cesite une connaisance tendue des restrictions et des
tabou. II est douteux que le volume de connaissances requis
pour suivre le train d'une d6mocratie de paperaseries et de
formulaires oit asses important pour permettres i quelqu'un
de faire son chemin dan une socit6 primitive. Pourtant, en
d6pit de tant de restrictions, il y a bien peu de choses que ron
ne peut pas fair dans chacu d ded oeu tats, si ron a Fesprit
d'agir sivant les circonatances avec un decorum suffisant -
avec eidmonie. Dans un cas on consulate un prtre, dans
'autre un home de lot
ILa fort oi pousse le bois doat on fait le masque est un
monde vivant, r6gi par une population d'esprits v6nr6s.
L'homme nest qu'une parties de ce monde animn Par cons-
quent, couper un arbre sans propre cr&monie on sans rites
propitiatoires pourrait offense le esprits cruellement On
doit done consulter un pretre. A son tour, it pourra consulter
esprit des arbres, et implorer son pardon pour ce qu'il expli-
que n'ete qu'un acte de destruction ncessaire. Dan certain
cas le sculpteur doit employer des outils don't on ne se sert
pour rien d'autre,* ceu-ci doivent etre b&nis par le pretre -
peut etre avec 'accompagnement d'un sacrifice. Avant de
commencer une image de la divinity, il est possible qu'un
sculpteur doive subir une c6r6monie de purification et observer

*Voir outili do sculptures dna Relipie and Art of the Ashaltis par
Rattray.







'abstinence pour une duree qui peut etre assez longue avant,
pendant, et aprs, rachivement de son travail. Couper un
arbre c'est 6ter la vie ce qui signifie ddloger un esprit de sa
demeure. Un esprit ainsi injuri6, si on ne rimploie pas
pourrait agir d'une manifre vengeresse centre Poffenseur, sa
famille ou toute la tribu. Le prftre use de supercherie. Quand
'arbre est coup il se peut qu'il rest couch of il est tomb6
pendant un certain temps, jusqu'& ce que esprit d6log6 so
lase et quite le site; alors on enlve larbre. Mais tout cela
et toute c&r6monie pratiqu6e ensuite sur Iavre fine ne
paraft pas lui conferer une sanctity implacable. Ce nest
qu'un f6tiche inerte; un instrument consacr6 pour invocation
des esprits. Ceci explique pourquoi 'Africain e aepare
volontiers d'une grande parties des euvres traditionalists -
ce qui a djA et6 mentionn6.*
Un chef yorube me montra de jolis masque qu'il tira du
chaume de la mason d'un prftre qui ktait site dam un lieu
isoW I ne voulait pas son spaer (bien qu'il ne fat pa
oppose & la vente de tells objets) pare que, disait-il, its etaient
associs A une c&1rmonie sacr6e. En Ealit, il aurait mieux
value que ces masques-A fussent vendus et que de nouveaux
fussent faits, car le sculpteur vivait encore et les masques talentt
ronges par les termites. Mais la principal raison pour laquelle
ii ne voulait pas s'en s6parer etait une question de convenance.
Le sculpteur tait un petit fermier et I ce moment-la on avait
besoin de toute la main d'ceuvre pour travailler la terre. On
ne pouvait se passer de lui come cultivateur ni par consd-
quent lui permettr de sculpter des masques dans sa capa-
cit religieuse avant que le masque soit n6cessaire pour une
nouvelle c6&nonie. 11 existait une certain m6fiance A fair
de tells chose dans un but commercial. LA o4 cette mniance
sefface comme dans les regions cotieres le travail decline
et assume le caractfre d'inertie de la production manuelle en
masse. C'est Pexpression qui done au masque sa solennit6;
ainsi que les proc6d6s de. fabrication et usage qu'on en fait

R. Dennet dans Bekhid the Blak Man's Mind, dit que chess let
Bavili du Congo qui so parent de leurs fitiches pour les donner i des
stranger, il est babituel de ls de-conacrer. Ced est emblable I la
dCuEcttion de la propriety mie i vendre dan PEglse ChrCtiene.







en religion. Par lui-mmne et en autres occasions le masque
n'a aucune solennit6. La signification du masque lui vient
du r6le qu'il joue dans la cI rmonie don't il n'est qu'un des
nombreux instruments un f6tiche un objet d'art
La sculpture proprement dite o'op&e par une reduction
syst6matique du bloc qui comprend plusieurs stages suivant
les outils employs, eherminette et le couteau. La procedure
est toujours rigide et inflexible. Mr. Braunholtz du British
Museum, a obtenu de Ikot Ekpene, de la Nigeria du Sud, une
poupe en bois faite en huit stages. II me dit qu'il eut du
mal a persuader le aculpteur Ibibio d'interrompre son travail
A chaque stage et de recommencer sur un autre bloc jusqu'A
ce que le stage suivant fft atteint. La sculpture se commence
A Iheminette et se temine au couteau.* Elle suit un proc6d6
fixe et d6fnitif come la vie qui passe par des stages diff6r-
ents qui sont marquis par des rites et des cermonies.
Interrompre son travail avant de avoir complete et le recom-
mencer a nouveau lui etait aussi incomprehensible dans le
domain de la sculpture que dans la vie. Sa confusion
lorsqu'on lui demandait de s'Aloignerde ses procedes habituels
6tait similaire A celle d'un savant qu'on interromprait au
milieu d'un calcul mental
L masques Bagen du Congo belge, ont une toile de
fibre. tiase qui couvre to derriere de la tte de celui qui les
porte. La mmee bre est brod6e sur la toile prs du front et
couple et peignee en forme de touffe 6paisse pour repr6senter
les cheveux. Ce capuchon tiss6 et brodi peut prendre une
forme 'trs savantes qui prolonge le masque sculpt (photo 46).
Le masque Bundu de Mendes, Sierra Leone, & la former d'une
cagoule de bois enveloppant toute la tte et pourvue d'un
rabat A trous qui fait le tour du cou et a laquelle une range
en fibre est attache afin de la joindre 6troitement au costume
de celui qui porte le masque (photo 4). Quelquefois le visage
du danseur est covert d'une cagoule de textile qui se porte
sur le costume et la personification de I'esprit du f6tiche
consist en une crEte de totem sculptee au dessus. On se sert
Bamboy, le yorube, utilie 'herminette et ensuite le couteau. Les
otis varient. Les Ahantis de Ia COe d'Or e servent de gouges de
diftreates tailles-Rattray: Religion and Are of the Ashat.







de toutes les substances et de tous les tests imaginables qu'on
peut obtenir dans le commerce pour ajouter A expression des
masques, Une feuille de m6tal mince est finement repous6e
par Ie fabricant du masque. Le moindre objet emuopen mis
au rebut rEjouirait le cseur du fabricant de masques par la
richese de son eclat. Jn miroir a un grand attrait pour le
faiseur de fetiches, A cause de sa propriety (qui tient du
fant6me) A reflEter des images et A projeter les faisceaux des
rayons du solei. Come il n'etaxt pas dsillusionn6 par
F6xplication intellectuelle d'un tel phdnombne ii a servait de
cela avec un hereux effet dam ses representations du monde
des esprits. Les masques du mavaes genie Pore dans une
danse de Soci6te Poro que je vis en Sierra Leone* comport-
aient un grand morceau de mirir insert dans une peau de
leopard qui battait A chaque movement de la tte du danseur,
de sorte que ceux des files qui sapprochaient asses pril du
masue ftIce, ouvaent voir leur propre visage momentan-
ment reflchi par le masque de leur diviit tutmair. Lrnque
le danseur tournaut, des rayons de lumire du solely qui danait
itaient renvoys sur les inities
Certain masque sont faits de substances flexible teles
qu'une Ctoffe faite en ecorcef ou une fibre tissue et brod6ede
perles et de coquillages. Un masque d'une divinity de la
tribu, trvailA de perles, d6core la couronne du Ogogue
d'Ikare, Nigeria Meridionale. La couronne a la fonre d'une
mitre d'rvque et porte une longue fange de perles qui pend
devant la figure esa hautess. a frange de ce masque-
couronne remplit son but normal qui est de protgr le
danseur centre resprit qu'il Evoque en dansant ou de derober
le visage du chef a vulgaire, don't le regard, dit-on, ne pour-
rait supporter son divin ecat.
(Translation by Denise M. Cooper)


Soeidtf pour 'initiation des adolecemnts i I puberty
tLa second couche d'6core d'un arbre battue jusqu'i ce qu'ell
devienne un feuille flexible, et utilirse dan Is manufacture de P'4tof
avnt Padoption du tisage.










DESCRIPTIVE NOTES TO THE PLATES

1. BAGA. French Gulnea. Heht 66 ins. Coloured with pigments
in oil. Collection M. Cockina, q.
In this polymorphous mask of the Baga the jaws of the croco-
dle, bird forms and the horns of the antelope are combined with
human features in eulptural unity. A tangible form is created,
pesonifying a spirit of the mylvan glade in a large mask. It is
worn at a cant from the horizontal a indicated in Plate 18 and 19.
2. BAMBARA. French Guinea. Height 23 ino Darkened. Collection
Webster Plas, Esq.
The horned totem (anthropomorphied antelope on forehead
emerging feom a paling of horm) signfie a sylvan divinity.
This tribe alo pennies the tribal concept of the spirit of the
wild, in dellcately carved abstractions of the antelope with human-
lead frae.
S. MENDL Sierra Leone. Height 16in. Blackened. Collection
Webster Plas, YEq.
4. MENDL Sierra Leone. Height 15 ins Blackened. Collection
I. P. Bedford, Bq.
S. MENDL Sierra Leone. Height 14 ins. Blackened. In posmeion
APat 1n, !a S-devil maksh of the women's Bunda Society.
The Bundu mnak is in the form of a hood which envelop the head
and has but small apet~urce in the eye for the wearer's -iion. A
fringe of fibre hangs from the neck (rabbet for fastenig fringe is
seen in Plate 4). The subject insists upon the dancer' body being
covered completely by costume with stocking and gloves, and thus
protecting her from the devil spirit her dance evokes.
& DAN. Liberia and Ivory Cot. Height 9 ins. Darkened. Posess
ion of the author.
Typical of the Dan masks is a simplificatio of the negro face
in two broad planes inclined inwards to intersect on the line of the
eye. In this mask the plane from eyes to chin i sensitively sub-
divided into fve lesser planes forming the cheek, mouth, ridge and
chin; the noe remain in the mean plane common to them all.
Square eyes harmonic with e planal treatment
7. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coat Height 10ins. Coloured red
lati ) and white round the eye. In posmsessi of HB D. Moles-
The mouth was originally longer; an extension of the human
mouth to resemble the animal feature.








SA. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coast. Height 9 ins. Blackened. Royal
cottish Museum, Edinburgh.
Treatment similar to that of Plate 9 with the broad facial planes
less pronounced.
I. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coost Height 9 ina. Blackened. Col-
lection M. Cockin, Esq.
This and Plate 11 emphasize the planes of the face above and
below the eyes.
9. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coast. Height 11 ins Darkened; the
lower jaw movable, operated by the dancer's chin. Collection
Webster Plau, Eq.
SThe sylvan divinity appear a a humanised warthog. The broad
planes of the face in Dan masks are discernible beneath the numer-
os protruding features.
10. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coast. Height 9 ins. Darkened. Highly
patinated Ponssesion of J. Kggie, Eq.
The typical planes of the face, here senitively modulated by
rounded foms, cbaracterse this Dan mask.
11. 8ENUPO. Ivory Coat. Height l0ins. Darkened. Collection
x CoddN Baq.
A divinity exhibiting the connection between the wild and man
in horns and tribal markings.
12. SENUF Ivory Coast Height I Il~ Darkened. Collection
M. Cockin, q.
A sylvan deity in form of warthog.
13. BAULE. Ivory Coat Length 27 ins. Picked out in black. British
Museum.
A sylvan deity in form of bush-cow.
14. BAULE. Ivory Coast Height 10 in. Darkened and stained
black and red. Collection Sainsbury, Esq.
The feet of a bird totem on the forehead. The heavy rabbet
behind the face is to bring the hood of fibre covering the daacer'
head flush with the surface of the mask, Bye moth and forehead
m in- are in low relief on the surface of te bolder forms of the
face--& sensitive frontal dome and drawn-out area of the negro
mo-th
15. BAULE. Ivory Coast. Height 12ins Darkened. Collection
R. Sainsbury, Esq.
Similar to Plate 14 but the more restrained relief of the hair,
beard, and tribal markings contrast the greater volume in the fea-
tures and give it a very human expression .
16. BAUL. Iory Coat. Height I gins. DarkendL Royal Scotish
Museum, Edinburgh.
Similar to masks on Plate 14 and 15. A bearded man with
tWtmic birds on forehead. Do the two birds, distinguihed by
different marking signify divisions of the same tribe represented
a drawing sustenance from the same source?
44







1Ba. BAUL. Ivory Coast. Height 10 is. Coated with coloured rsin.
Collection M. Cockin, Esq.
In this and the one o Plate 17 the form is latter than in that of
Plate 14 Thee examples (Plates 16n and 17) without the nilt-
ence in relief of the abstract form of the dome of the forehead aad
drawn-out region of negro mouth, appear s an earlier state of the
more developed style in Plate 14.
17. BAULE. Ivory Coast Height 10 Ins. Coated with coloured sin.
Collection M. Cocki, Esq.
iL NUNUMA?). Gold Coast, Northern Tefritories. Length 10ins
Coloured ultramarine and oche. Collecionm M. Cockla, Eq.
In this synthetic representation of the spirit of the' wild the
carver has fused the Jaws of crocodile with head of dog or fx.
19. GRUNSHI or JAMAN(). Gold Coat, Northern Territories.
Lenh 25 ins. Coloured ultramarine and ochre. Collection M.
An animal Janus mak. A diagoally divided rectangle similar
to that on the Sakrobundi mak, Plate 20, appears on the jugated
poll between the horns. The otem on the mauzles are: on the left,
the scorpion; and on the right, the leopard. A third totem is mis-
ing from the central position between the poll of the head. While
the head seems to be an abstract of the same antelope u in Plaste
20 and 21, the teeth appear to be crocodile, in moth significantly
wedged open.
20. GRUNSHI or JAMAN(), Gold Coes, Northern Territories.
Heght 8 in. Coloured r, black and ochre British Museum.
Carved out of a lab which has been adzed out of the solid. A
mask of the diviity Sakrobundi; eaid to have been used in the
ritual of war in Ashant. The head derives from that of a local
antelope with inturned horns bu bby what transactions a ylvan
spirit became an Ahanti war fetish and then d appeared po
the defeat of the Ashanti by the British I am able to discover.
The dance connected with this mask Is described by R. Austen
Freeman who made some sketch of masks similar to this and the
one in Plate 21. The loop between the horns may be the atrophied
remains of another element. Freeman in his sketch of another
Sakrobundi mask shows a monkey carved in this position.
21. GRUNSHI or JAMAN(?). Gold Coast, Northern Territories.
Height in. Coloured ultramarine and oche Collection M.
Cockin, Esq.
Who, regarding this ma of a "horse antelope" could doubt
its representing a spirit of the wild? It has looking-gla eyes and
trade mirrors in ormolu frames applied to the cheek. with gm.
It resembles Freeman's sketch of till another form of Sakrobuodi
mU-Lt







22. FON. Dahomey. Height 8ins. Blackened, movable lower jaw.
Collection W. O. Oldmaa, EI.
The sylvan spirit repreeted by a horned animal head carries a
human head peon the deity between the horns. A bovine
head, similar to that of the animal in thi mak, i found on me
of the bronze plaques.frMo Benin.
2S. YORUBA. Southern geria. Lags area. Height 8 ins. Coloured
black, rew, white and ochre. Collection M. Cocdn, Esq.
A good example of the cap mask of the Yorubas of the coastal
area in style recalling the formal realism of Egypt
24. YORUBA. Southern Nigeria. Height $ ist. Blackened and
covered with resin. British Mueum.
Scale and treatment of the animal form of the sylvan spirit here
dominates the human in the mask beneath. An Eleip mask.
25. YORUBA. Southern Nigeria. Heght 40 ias. Blackened. British
Museum.
STribal chef armed and mounted. This motive occurs frequently
in Yoruba work (Plate 27). In this instance (and that of Plate 24)
the equestrian motive dominates the mask in scale only, for the
latter is no less bold in expressio~. An Elepa maL.
26. YORUBA. Southern Nigeria Height 44ins. Coloured rd black
and white, British Museum.
TA this Elepa piece the janas-faced mask becomes more recessive
in its sculptural treatment and supports a platform on which a
more elaborate composition is carved. The subject is human fer-
tility. The female figure behind appears to be engaged in the
preparation of food.
27. YORUBA Southern Nigeria. Height 4 ins. Coloured black, red,
ochre and white. In possession of the author.
The inceaing preponderance of the treatment of subject ao-
cated with the Elepa mask which s illustrated progrively in
Plates 24, 25 and is here. een at its senith. Th, mask was
carved over thirty year ago by Bamboys, when he was a young
carver living in Oim, Itria province. Carving in one piece,
with made and knife, could hardly be more couple. It is the
same motive as that of Plate 25, but the equestrian chief It
accompanied by a subordinate divinity and surrounded by incidents
of the tribal life of the people.
2L Detail of Plate 27.
29. IJAW. Southern Nigeria. Height 20 ins. Uncoloured. Horni-
man's Museum.
If the mask of Plate 23 contains as much naturallem as is con-
siten with the representation of a spirit, then this one is the exa
preua of a spirit with as little reference to nature as pouible.







Emphasis on significant features is given by their prcection. But
for the significance of the form from which they project we must
refer to a les abstract example in Plate 0.
j0. IJAW. Southern Nigeria Length 26 Ies. Coloured ltramarine
and red. British Museum.
The origin of the arrow and circle form (obcare in Plate 29)
may be een clearly in this mask. The antelope horns are joined
at their points by an atrophied relic of ome other fore, like the
loop between the horns in Plate 20. The crocodile snout in this
example is een as the point of the arrow in the example Plate 20,
the crescent-shaped wings of perforated rays on t side of the
head may be an abstract of the ralnbow(r1)- ocasted with fer-
tility and the sky god.
31. SOBO or IJAW(4) Southern Nigeria. Height 30 ins. Coloured
ochre and indigo. Collection M. CocEin, lq.
Expression in this msk relies more on the design of shapes in
low relief. Its impressive unity resuls from a sensitive handling
of a simple means; in the division and balance of square and
triangular shapes which receive but a restraied additional elec-
tive order in the degree of their relief.
32. SOBO or IJAW. Southern Niria. Height 0 in. Coloured
white, red and bla. CollectionM. Cockin,lPq.
The carving rises in the form of a colmn widening at th op
Large excavations have been made to reduce weigt, and the
have then been closed with a delicate ice The for arytid
figures at the bo -stalwarts of the tribe or tribal emanatio of a
spriual. divinity-- pport a group of tribesmen lebrating with
wine and tbaoo at-the top.
S-. 800B or IJAW(?. Southern Nigeria. Height 26 In. Colored
white, red and blade. Collection M. Cockin, Esq.
The base of the figures is formed as a crows to he wor n O the
head as in Plate 32. A platform (for some offering ) is supported
by two tribal carytids, male and female and between them stand
the animal emanation of the fetish spint alo supporting the plat-
form with its tail.
34. IBO. Southern Nigeria. Height 14 ins Coloured black, white
and red. British Museum.
The deformation of facial features, due to endemic disease, but
of unknown- cause to the Ib Is said to be regarded by them as
some manifestation of the spirit world, and thus to become a
feature in some of their mn ks.
35. IBO. Southern Nigeria. Height 7ins. Darkened; picked out in
black. British Museum.
A delicate and refined expression of the vil spirit
56. IBIBIO. Ekon. Southern Nigeria. Height 9 Ins. Black d,
S Horniman's Museum.







A calmer order of dispositin than that of evil in Plate 36, and
the insrutable gaiety of Plate $7, is imparted by this spirit
$7. IBIB10. Southern Nigeria. Height 10 ins. Blackened. Collection
W. 0. Oldma, Esq.
An Eg oce mask. The expression in this mask and that of
Plate 34 emplify recurring type in art showing how little they
change in time and different place. Refer Plate 14 to Rodin's
browse "L'hm =r a can" and this ne to Leonardo da
Vinci'. "Moe LiS"
SL MIBIO. Southern Nigeria. Height 9 in. Blackened. Royal
Scottish Museuwm Edinburgh.
The calm judicial depression of Plate 36 occurs again in this
mak.
S9. MUNSHL Northern Nigeria. Height Sins. Darkened Collec-
tion W. 0 .Oldman, Esq.
"A sacricial mas, ueed at the New Moon Ceremonics when
virgins were sacrificed i a canoe on the river." (Ex collection of
F. Hives, eq an officer who uppressed the practice.) A pro-
noced doed forehead adds calculation to the evil expresion of
the features.
The masks reproduced here of the Ibo Ibibio, and Munshi,
Plates 54 to 9, share an affinty distinctive from the ret. It seem
as if human facial expression is used above all ee to pesonify
emanation or moods of these divinities.
40. EKOL Crows River, Southern Nigeria. Height 15 in. Covered
with coloured antelope skin and garnished with hair. British
Museum.
Flowing contours of the Ekoi masks are produced by a fusion
of the carved forus due to the akin coverin. Many of them are
Smasks of the Janus type. Though on a diminutive sale, three or
four heads may be joined together by their backs, forming a sort
of crest to be worn, in place of a n k, on the hood of a dancer's
costume of fibre.
41. CKAA. Northern Cameroona. Length 25 s. Blackened, red and
white on eyes and mouth, the lower jaw of which is movable.
British Museum.
A sylvan deity appearing as a horned dog. The ingenious relief
of the eyes with incised and coloured pupils gives a wideawake
expression of an agile spirit
42. CHAMBA. Northern Nigeria. Length 2 ins. Blackened and
coloured with tukula; eyes of European white metal cons, beaten
oat British Museum.
VIsdn for the dancer is provided for by a slit inside the mouth.
The mas is worn at an incline from the horizontal as indicated in
Plates 19 and 21. Compare the individual abstraction of this mask
deriving from the same form (bush-cow?) as that in Plate 13. The
neck fringe, abown here complete, is made of- fibre-like jote.








45. BAMUM(). Camerems. Height IS inL Uncoloured, cowries for
pupils of eyes. Horniman's Museum.
Human depression made unearthly by the hieratic mile is fami-
liar in Cameroon masks.
44. BALUMBO. Gaboon, French Congo. Height 13 ins Coloured
white, red and black. British Museum.
A ghost mas. The expreslon in these masks is remarkable for
Its sensitive refnement The Asiatic aspect they have for many is
incidental to the necessity of protecting the dancer from the spirit
personified by the mu, by providing it with narrow slits for his
vioon.
45. BAPENDE. Kwango River, Belgian Conga Height 16in..
British Museum.
The features are dominated by geometrical hapes which receive
emphasis from colour and relief. White, the ghot colour, picks
out the eyes, eyebrows, mouth and the cryptogram on the forehead
between the homs of this sylvan deity.
46. BAPENDE Belgian Cong. Height 10 ins. Coloured red tukula
and black. British Museum.
It i a mask worn by members of a men's society at their initia-
tion ceremony. The mask represent the ghost of the old life
before puberty, the pasdg of which i dramatized for initiates by
a ceremonial dah. Int: small Ivory copy worn a a badge of

47. BALUIJA. Belgian Congo Height 9 ins. Darkened. Collection
K Coem, Bs
A hed nk of impressive eculptural iplicity.
48. BALUBA(4 Belgian Congo. Height 16 in. Coloured red, black
and white. Collection W. O. Oldman, Esq.
The form of the features retains only an abstract resemblance
to the human; in the creation of a countenance associated with
mature yet drawing away from it in visual experiece-a spirit
face.
The msesuremAt of Ham frma Nr. OeeOok's egletim a a ppror shn .







For Bibliography see FiWpr is Wf d.




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9. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coast.



























































10. DAN. Liberiaand Ivory Coast.
10. DAN. Liberia and Ivory Coast.

























































11. SENUFO. Ivory Coast.






















































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18. NUNUMA(?). Gold Coast, Northern Territories.
































































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21. GRUNSHI or JAMAN(?). Gold Coast, Northern Territories.












































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34. IBO. Southern Nigeria.





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35. IBO. Southern Nigeria.


















































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36. IBIBIO. Ekong. Southern Nigeria.































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37. IBIBIO. Southern Nigeria.





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41. KAKA. Northern Cameroons.








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42. CHAMBA. Northern Nigeria.


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43. BAMUM(?). Cameroons.




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44. BALUMBO. Gaboon, French Congo.
44. BALUMBO. Gaboon, French Congo.




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