This is a fine example of what is commonly called a "firespitter" mask. It is a zoomorphic mask belonging to the Wabele society of the Senufo people. Its purpose is to ward off evil spirits during periods of a person's, or peoples', worst vulnerability; funerals and other times of distress. The Janus aspect, the double sided appearance, gives it a greater advantage to see oncoming evil. The Senufo people inhabit the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and the extreme southern part of Mali.
It has powerful teeth like the warthog, a hyena's snout. These are very aggressive masks and are said to emit fire to frighten away the spirits. Actually a hot coal is blown across to emit a flame or sparks. The power comes from the magical potions mixed in the small cup on the top of the head which is held by two chameleons. However, the full realization of the magic cannot take place until the dancer is dressed in full regalia; a costume of a cotton fabric. The dance will then take place appropriate to the need at hand.
This is an older version of the mask, lacking the later elaborations and bright paintings which took place after the 1950s. It shows signs of wear and has the expected nicks and scratches which one would expect from an older piece but it has a rich patina and would be a great addition to any collection or as a deterrent to the IRS. I believe it to be early 20th century.
The measurements are 27 1/2" x 14". It is a heavy piece well over ten pounds but shipping is free within the US. International shipments must be insured.
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