Kòmò Helmet Mask (Kòmòkun)

Date: 19th–mid-20th century

Geography: Guinea or Mali or Burkina Faso or Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa

Culture: Komo or Koma Power Association

Medium: Wood, bird skull, porcupine quills, horns, nails, cotton, -sacrificial material

Dimensions: H x W x D: 21 5/8 x 12 3/4 x 28 7/8in. (54.9 x 32.4 x 73.3cm)

Classification: Wood-Sculpture

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.124


Leaders of the kòmò power association commission blacksmith-sculptors to carve wooden helmet masks for them. Regarded for their abilities to transform materials and fashion objects in metal and wood, the artists use several tools to convert a single piece of wood into the image of a fearsome creature's head with wide, gaping jaws. Animal horns, bird skull, porcupine quills, feathers, bundles, and a thick grayish coating cover the head of kòmò, or kòmòkun, shown here. In the competitive realm of power associations, where each expert seeks to distinguish himself from his colleagues and advertise his skills, kòmòkunw (plural) vary to reflect the unique knowledge that their owners garner through exchange and experience. Terrifying forms and potentially harmful materials contribute to the awesome power that the helmet masks express.