By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali; Senufo artist

Kponyungo (funeral head mask)


L. 83.5 cm (32 7/8”)

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.158

In another village, the separation is enacted as the performer wrestles with the corpse.  An observer describes, "[the performer] takes off his helmet mask, picks up the bundle, rolls with it in the dust, and throws it around as far as he can.  Nobody appears to believe that the bundle contains anything but cloth" (Forster 1993: 39).  This kponyungo mask bears the broad, flat horns of a bush buffalo, a dangerous and unpredictable animal, while its open jaws display the threatening teeth of a crocodile.  The performer was able to see out through the open jaws of the mask.