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Artist: Senufo peoples
Title: Firespitter Mask (Kponyugu), early 1900s

Wood
41 in. (104.1 cm)
Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.

This mask is used in ceremonies for members of a secret society called the Poro. The society watches over the traditions of their community. They make sure the Senufo people continue their traditions from one generation to the next. During a funeral, a young member of the Poro wears the mask on top of his head with raffia, a ribbon of palm leaves, covering his face. He beats a drum to protect against evil. This helps the soul of the deceased leave the body. The carved mask is a combination of animal traits, which include teeth from a crocodile and the horns of an antelope. You may also see part of a warthog and hyena in this mask, as well as a turtle and bird.