Berz Gallery of African Art
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Multi Dimensional But Not Freaky N'tomo Mask (Bamana/Marka)

Bamana/Marka Tribe, Mali

Composition: wood, stain, found metal and aluminum, glass (eyes), remains of applied oils/offerings Dimensions: 24" (h) x 7.5" (w) 60.96 cm (h) x 19.05 cm (w) Age: early 20th century Provenance: Ex. Sotheby's, New York, May 2014, Lot African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art Including Property from the Krugier and Lasansky Collections, Ex. Private American Collection (New York) Certification: Every piece is guaranteed authentic and includes a handmade custom base, a comprehensive dossier with certificate of authenticity, and includes any additional historical documentation or information pertaining to the object including certificates of authenticity from past dealers or bills of sale where they exist. Description: According to oral tradition, N’tomo (N’Domo) masks like this incredibly crafted early 20th century example have historically been danced to protect young boys during their first initiation cycle (before circumcision and manhood). N’tomo is a protector spirit, with elements of the mythological antelope creature that is thought to spiritually protect all aspects of tribal life. The comb-like superstructure refers to specific characteristics of males (three or six horns), or females (four or eight horns) or the androgynous (two, five or seven horns). N’tomo masqueraders never speak, and act by demonstrating their power to protect the boys in their presence. This is a very sophisticated and exceptionally "adorned" example, with forged, formed, and pounded metal throughout, multiple metal and glass (mirror) sets of eyes and glass (mirror) reflectivwhich give the mask an even more interesting appearance. Recall that 8-prong antelope/comb superstructures refer to female characteristics, making this mask a bit rarer than those we find typically. Every few years we acquire one, and we are very pleased with this fantastic mask. As our friends and clients know, however, it really doesn't take much to get us pleased with ourselves. About the Bamana: "The 2,500,000 Bambarra people, also called Bamana, form the largest ethnic group within Mali and occupy the central part of the country, in an area of savannah. They live principally from agriculture, with some subsidiary cattle rearing in the northern part of their territory. The Bambarra kingdom was founded in the 17th century and reached its pinnacle between 1760 and 1787 during the reign of N’golo Diarra. However, during the 19th century, the kingdom began to decline and ultimately fell to the French when they arrived in 1892. For the most part, Bambarra society is structured around six male societies, known as de Dyow" (sing. Dyo) (Ref: Bacquart, “Tribal Arts of Africa”). Photo of Masked N'tomo dancer is Eliot Eliofsen, @ Smithsonian Museum Archives