Here is a very large dramatic Bete Gle mask. Superbly carved with nice detail and very dramatic features. Carved from one piece of wood. Probably circa 1975. Tip of the right nostril flare is re-attached, see photo, otherwise no repairs or restorations. Top of head age crack and minor losses as per photos. About 13 1/2" tall x 10 1/2" wide. Center piece for any African art collection!
Settled on the left shore of the Sassandra River, the 370,000 Bete of the Ivory Coast are divided into ninety-three groups. Some authors situate one Bete group in Liberia. Traditionally, Liberia was given as their place of origin, but that opinion is now being contested. (J.P. Dozon, 1985)
Lacking in centralized power, the Bete were grouped together in relatively major villages, containing several lineages, probably for security reasons. Each lineage had a totemic animal whose meat was taboo. The most senior member of the lineage exercised a moral and judicial power, notably in terms of awarding land. The Bete, who ascribed more importance to the hunt than to agriculture, grew only what was needed for a subsistence economy.
To render the hostile forces of the forest material, they sculpted a type of mask that would provoke pure terror: the gre, with its grimacing face, distorted features, facial protuberances, horned heads, bulging forehead, tubular eyes, and wild animals' teeth. In earlier days, this mask was used for war dances. It presided over the ceremony held when peace was restored after armed conflicts. It also, participated in sessions of customary justice and law enforcement.
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