Wooden Family Mask
Bassa tribe, Liberia, Early 20th c.
PROVENANCE: De-accessioned by the University of Virginia Art Museum. Mask acquired by the museum in 1980 and old/faded inventory numbers painted in red can be seen on the back of the mask. Acquired by Drs. Jean and Noble Endicott, New York.
This large Wooden Family Mask from the Bassa Tribe in Liberia, would have been kept by a family, rather than an individual, and was used to assert family identity. When viewed from the side, the mask’s thinness is quite remarkable, especially considering the material used is very hard wood. The face is more abstract then some of the other more portrait-like family masks, but the slit eyes and small mouth are congruent with stylistic traditions in Liberia. The age of the mask is detected by the oxidation of the wood, which is heavily patinated. Facial scarring is also detected from the forehead down to the nose.