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VALLEY 19th and 20th Century African Art: Aka Elephant Mask

Analysis of the Bundu Mask

Identification

Elephant (Aka) Mask, Kuosi Society, Bamileke Peoples,

Grassfields region of Cameroon, 20th century, cloth, beads, raffia, fiber, 146.7 x 52.1 x 29.2 cm 

Context

Cultural and/or historical influences: Bamileke society in grass-fields region of Cameroon; used with costumes by performers during masquerades

Artist background/ influences: would be worn with a red feather headdress, leopard pelt, and a full body costume; the Fon was divine king who could transform into elephant while leopard could transform into human

How the work conforms to artistic conventions and/or deviates from the norm: honors king, demonstrates political stability of hierarchical order; only the Fon of this society allowed the members to dance the elephant mask and to wear leopard skin

What impact did/does the work have: ritual still performed annually by not just warriors, but by powerful members of society

Content

Subject matter or narrative: elephant-shaped mask

Themes: power; honor; connection between divine rule; the essence of powerful animals

Iconography (symbols): the leopard and elephant symbolize the king’s power and authority; the isosceles triangles reflect the patterning on a leopard body

Artistic style of the work: stylized

Image

           

Image Map

 Located in the grass-fields regions of Cameroon 

Works Cited/ Resources

  • Gardner's Art Through the Ages, AP Edition
  • https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/africa-ap/v/elephant-mask

Form

Materials: beads, cloth, raffia, fiber

Process: mixed media creation

Visual/Physical elements of art: contrast of cool and warm colors (blues and reds)

Function

Purpose of work/ Intention of the artist: used in dances by members of Elephant Society; honoring king and bringing about social harmony

Artist and Patron (Intended Audience- who was it for?): dancers were people who kept themselves in great power (court officials, titleholders, warriors, etc.)

Where was the work meant to be viewed/experienced? was used in a masquerade (dancing, performers, costumes, etc.)

 

Vocabulary

The Fon: the divine king who could transform into elephant

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