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19th and 20th Century African Art: Aka Elephant Mask

Identification

178. Aka elephant mask. Bamileke (Cameroon, western grassfields region). c. 19th to 20th century C.E. Wood, woven raffia, cloth, and beads. 

Context

-Danced by members of the Elephant Society in the Bamileke kingdom of Cameroon

-This masquerade consisted of both performers and musicians, wearing costumes to bring this mask to life

-The leopard was believed by the Elephant Society to be able to transform into a human being

-Still perform this ritual annually by powerful members of society

-Worn with red feather headdress, leopard skin pelt, and costume

Content

The isosceles triangles represented a leopard's pattern. The leopard and elephant together symbolized the king's power.

Stylized piece

Theme: connection between divine rule, animals, and powerful men

Image

Image Map

  

Works Cited/ Resources

“Elephant Mask, Kuosi Society, Bamileke Peoples, Cameroon.” Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/africa-ap/v/elephant-mask.

Kleiner, Fred S. “Africa 1800-1980.” Gardner's Art Through The Ages AP Edition, 15th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016. 

Form

Materials: woven raffia, cloth, wood, beads

Visual/Physical Elements of Art: contrasting geometric patterns such as isosceles triangles and circles, a variety of colors and shapes, contrast between blues ans whites to emphasize outline of elephant figure, repetition of circular patterns

Function

To honor the king and bring social harmony and political stability

Was worn by Bamileke who were titleholders, warriors, and court officials 

Vocabulary

The Fon- a divine king who had the ability to transform into the elephant, the leopard was believed to an animal that had the capability to transform into human, developed the connection between the essence of powerful animals and divine rule