A very good Grebo bird face mask. The carving is exceptional. The mask is very symmetrical, the facial features; the nose, cheeks and cylindrical “eyes” are all finely carved. The triangle “tooth’ decorations on the forehead are “lifted”; carved in 3D. Each tooth on the beak is in detail. The inside of the beak is beautifully carved in convex, both top and bottom. The inside of the mask has rectangular recesses for the eyes, a depression for the nose and the “mouth“ (opening) of the beak. About 16 1/2" overall. Probably circa 1960.
The mask is chipped along the rear right edge, there is an old repair to the tip of the beak on the outer edge and there is an old patch to an old crack on the top of the head (see photos). This is an older mask that is finely carved with an exceptional deep age brown, nearly black, patina.
"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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Regional & Ethnic Antiques