Loma (Toma) Mask, Liberia/Guinea

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Lot 16
Loma (Toma) Mask, Liberia/Guinea

Sold for US$ 45,000 inc. premium

African & Oceanic Art

11 May 2016, 10:00 PDT

Los Angeles

Loma (Toma) Mask, Liberia/Guinea
bakorogui (male) or bakarozai (female)
Wood, metal, pigments
height 11 3/4in (29.8cm)

Finely hand-carved of deeply-hollowed elongated form, pierced with square holes around the edges for fiber attachment, as well as through the rectangular eye slits and mouth; three bent iron inserts on the top of the domed forehead above the eyes, each heightened with inset rectangular aluminum strips and separated by the linear nose with squared nostrils, the open mouth with arched upper lip and inset with aluminum teeth on top and bottom; accented overall with linear grooves around the perimeter and as brows above the eyes with remnants of red and white pigment; fine, varied glossy dark-brown patina with wear on the inside indicative of significant age and use.

Provenance
Acquired by Charles Miller, III in Ganta, Liberia in the 1970s
Charles Miller, III, St. James, New York

These particular type of masks, bakorogui and bakaorzai, are exceedingly rare and thus very little is known about their intended function. There are several similar examples illustrated on the Van Rijn Archives (nos. 0116848, 0108338, 0125995 and 0125488) yet each has individualistic characteristics: some have one bent iron insert on the top, others have none, the present mask has three; only one other has inset aluminum in the eyes; only one example does not have raised cicatrices on the cheeks. However, by analyzing various characteristics of the present mask, one may begin to postulate on the potential function of a mediator or one who oversees balance within the community. First, within the grooves around the border, eyebrows and chin are red and white pigments. Throughout African societies, white represents good, purity, transition and is associated with the moon and light; red represents blood, war and power. Second, the fierce qualities, including the jagged teeth and the raised upper lip are juxtaposed in the mask with the beauty and reflective qualities of the surface and the inlaid aluminum eyes which would have reflected light and sparkled when danced. Third, the fact that there are allegedly both male and female Loma (Toma) masks could further confirm this concept of balance potentially intended by the mask and often witnessed in African art and society.
Contacts
Loma (Toma) Mask, Liberia/Guinea
Loma (Toma) Mask, Liberia/Guinea
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