Kom Helmet Mask, Tikar Group, Western Grasslands, Cameroon
height 19 1/4in (49cm)
Wood, camwood powder, kaolin
Henri Kamer, Paris and New York
Private Collection, New York
A very fine example of the hollowed helmet form, having a rounded face with bulging almond shaped eyes, cheeks and lips, raised brows with kaolin in eyes, the mouth is open exposing carved teeth and the ears, each pierced, protruding on both sides of the head; a large crown (headdress) extends above forehead. The chin is pierced for string attachment to be held in the wearer's teeth; remains of reddish camwood powder in ears, nose and crown; old black/brown surface with glossy patina.
Cf. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no. 1972.4.2, for another early (19th c.) Kom mask with pierced hole in chin for string attachment.
Cf. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, accession no. 1971.66, for an early Kom mask with reddish camwood powder in the nose etc.
"In the socially and politically stratified polities of the Grassfields Kingdoms of Cameroon, the display and ownership of masks are important indicators of privilege and prestige. Kwifoyn, a regulatory society whose members derive their authority from the Fon, or king, oversees all levels of criminal justice and functions as an executive branch of government. Kwifoyn is organized into ranked lodges; membership requires the payment of prescribed fees commensurate with each lodge's relative status. Among the privileges of membership is patronage of mask forms in celebrations performed in honor of its members." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)