A exceptional, early Grebo mask, Liberia, Africa, with horns, multiple eyes, open eyes and protruding tongue, early - mid 20th century. Wonderful encrusted patina with mud cloth “hood” attached. Minor age cracks, losses and insect damage, see photos. The fine lines, symmetrical carving and very light weight of the wood are indicative of the earlier period. 15 1/2" tall. No restorations or repairs. Integrally carved from one piece of wood. Museum quality!
"Grebo" means "leaping monkey people," a reference to their flight from a former homeland near the Sahara. Their major economic activity is producing palm oil and palm kernels for export. The culture of the Grebo, a little-known ethnic group inhabiting the coastal region of eastern Liberia and the bordering forestlands, was shaped in a considerable degree by their neighbors to the north, the Kran and Dan. Unlike the other people living in Liberia, the Grebo are not structured by the Poro society. They are ruled by a chief known as bodio who lives in near total isolation and also assumed the function of grand priest.
The Grebo sculpt several types of masks. One type is characterized by a massive face surmounted by two buffalo horns. The second type of masks represents the female ideal with slit eyes and sweetness of expression. The third type are male war masks, more abstract and flat, formed by a board with elongated nose and one or more pairs of tubular eyes. The masks appeared during rituals reserved for initiates and at the time of festive occasions, when the whole population was able to see them. The war masks designed primarily to terrify appeared during battles, in the dances beforehand, and at the funerals of warriors.
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