Asian Art Museum: African Mask with Pectoral

An African mask from a recent museum visit- K.L. © 2014

An African mask from a recent museum visit- K.L. © 2014

From the same museum visit (The Asian Art Museum) as my last post, This beautiful mask stands out in a number of ways for me. The color is the first thing to capture my eye. Dark, glossy, with the subtle lighter shadings of brown on the lips and tip of the nose. I want to call it mahogany wood, but I’m not so sure, I just know it’s strikingly beautiful.

The red ‘scaring’ along the head? I can’t be certain if it is representative of ‘scarification’ meant to signify various things such as status, rank, placing in a tribal hierarchy- or could it be flaws that have spread out over time? In my mind, it fits and adds another layer of complexity and mystery to the overall effect of the mask.

I love the shape of the eyes. Mine are shaped like this so I guess you could say I see a bit of myself in them? I do wonder what it would feel like to be given the opportunity to put this mask on. I wholly believe all art holds power; the power its creators gave it in its construction, along with the power of what the art actually represents or represented at the time and place in history when created.

I’d also love to know what the ‘ear ornaments’ were made from? Amber would be my guess, but don’t quote me on that! Notice the tips have the appearance of nail heads?

Or is that just me?

Then there is the pectoral; the stunning, multi-faceted, complex pectoral beginning high up on the neck and ending with the elongated pieces of what I consider to be sea shells circling the bottom portion of the creation.

My question here is: Decorative? Spiritual? Ritualistic? Could it contain elements of all three possibilities or could I have missed the intention completely!

Irregardless of my lacking knowledge on the origins or intentions behind this fantastic work, my attention was captured from the word go.

This Asian Art Museum, located in San Francisco is a pretty amazing place. Glad I got to make the trip here and see so much incredible art!

4 thoughts on “Asian Art Museum: African Mask with Pectoral

  1. Wow , beautiful .. I’ve Been collecting masks from allover the world starting from when I was 16 and visited Tobago and got a mask as a gift from an old medecin man to protect me from evil .It completly transformed My boy room with Its character and after that I was addicted 🙂


    1. Thanks for the story, Simon! Would you mind if I reference it in the next post I make with masks?(I have a few more mask shots I took that day!) I could also link the post back to your site.

      I feel like I could also create an interesting story from what you wrote… I could send you something if you think it’s an idea worth pursuing?


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