Kònò Helmet Mask

Date: 19th–mid-20th century

Geography: Mali

Culture: Bamana peoples

Medium: Wood, sacrificial patina

Dimensions: H x 8 1/4 x W. 11 1/8 x D. 40 5/8 in. (21 x 28.2 x 103.2 cm)

Classification: Wood-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969

Accession Number: 1978.412.361


Kòmò and kònò associations construct helmet masks that express the organizations' power through their awesome and terrifying appearances. The two institutions extend across the western areas of West Africa and are among the most revered power associations in the region. Each organization fosters a unique body of knowledge, kept secret from men who are not members and most women. Members use their knowledge to counteract malevolence and manage complex social, psychological, and medical problems. The creation of this work combined the efforts of a professional sculptor to produce the structure with the knowledge of a kònò leader to add complementary esoteric materials to its surface.