baule ndoma mask
Country: Ivory Coast
Size: 14.75" (37.5 cm) Tall.
This type of mask, explicitly depicting a specific person, is exceedingly rare in Africa. These Ndoma, which in Baule language, means "double", "replica", "equivalence" or "copy", are designed as true portraits of real people living in the village and are given names. Which people have thus been honored? Social status is the deciding factor, whether in the case of a beautiful woman from a family with means, or and old man with a magnificent beard, whose prestige is acquired through an series of valorous hunting expeditions. A mask of this kind is not commissioned by the person it represents, but rather by a group of admirers, who pay the sculptor to make an effigy of the "beautiful woman" or old man, to honor them.
The dancer wears this mask, and who on occasion wears clothes supplied by the person it depicted, is accompanied in the dances by the actual subject, who pirouettes around him dressed in his/her best attire, sprinkling perfume, covering the ground he dances with pieces of fabric, beating away flies which are irritating him and generally behaving towards his double as if he were his child.