African HallMuseum Entrance
african mask Name: DANCE MASK
Origin: Togo, West Africa
Artist: Unknown
Description: This mask was made for the tourist market, based upon an original. In this case the cowrie shells, embedded in an organic gummy substance, are neatly lined up to suit Western tastes. In an original mask the gummy substance and the cowries would still be there, but the arrangement would be quite random. Cowrie shells were used for money in Old Africa and when a dancer-performer (who had the gummy substance already prepared) was being honored for his skill members of the audience would walk up to the dancer while he was performing and press cowrie shells onto the mask. In outlying villages today dancers are still honored in a similar way. When an audience member likes the dancer he will step up, lick a coin, and stick it on the dancer's face. The coins do not stay on long, but dancers have become very skillful at catching them before they fall to the ground.

Copyright by Serge King 2002
Contact Me