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Ram Mask (Bolo)

Ram Mask (Bolo)

possibly early 1900s


René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2016.56

Fun Fact

The ram is an important animal symbol for the Bobo people, associated with male aggression.


Bolo masks are primarily danced with for entertainment during communal occasions like funerals, male initiations, and harvest celebrations. Comprising both animal and human features, the mask––always worn by a male dancer––refers to the cultural significance of the ram, an animal associated with male aggression across sub-Saharan Africa. The painted surface designs possibly imitate protective, supernatural amulets worn by different people in the region.

This is a wooden helmet mask representing an animal head with two curbed horns on either side of the face, indicating that it would be the image of a ram, an important male animal symbol in the culture of the Bobo people. Originally the sculpture would have been brightly painted with different natural dyes, traces of which are still seen on various parts of its surface. The mask would also have been dressed with a thick collar of fibers which would have been attached to the holes drilled around its edge.

See also
African Art
African Art
Type of artwork: 

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