|Bamana Ntomo mask
I currently do not have a Ntomo mask in my collection
"The Bamana Ntomo masks were worn by boys as they passed through the early cycle of initiation into manhood. The masks reinforce the lessons the
boys are taught as they are prepared by elder males in the society for circumcision. There are two main style groups of their masks. One is
characterized by an oval face with four to ten horns in a row on top like a comb, often covered with cowries or dried red berries. The other type has a
ridged nose, a protruding mouth, a superstructure of vertical horns, in the middle of which or in front of which is a standing figure or an animal. The
ntomo masks with thin mouths underscore the virtue of silence and the importance of controlling one’s speech. During their time in ntomo the boys learn
to accept discipline. They do not yet have access to the secret knowledge related to korè and other initiation societies. Members wore a wooden face
mask during the initiation festival at harvest time and when begging for rice.
One reference sites the number of horns on such masks to symbolizes a human being's levels of increased knowledge based on the initiation stages,
while another reference sites that Ntomo masks with an even number of horns are female and those with an odd number of horns are male. Some
masks are plain wood with no decoration while others are covered in brass reprouse, cowrie shells or small red seeds with further esoteric significance
and the masks will vary greatly by region. The miniature mask rising from the forehead can be compared to other Ntomo masks that feature a full
human or animal figure.
The wearer of these masks will usually be seen walking through the village and entering the family compounds to announce a ritual or a puppet
masquerade. The village association comprises female and male divisions and is organized according to age groups (flan-bolow). One enters the ton
after circumcision and leaves it at the age of about thirty-five. Every year the ton organizes a festival (called Checko) of theatrical performances in the
village square. These include koteba and the puppets known as sogo bo in a succession of light-hearted sketches that satirize aspects of Bamana
social and religious life. Prior to the public performances, ton members parade through the village streets accompanying masks (sogow) such as Ngon
and Ntomo. Sogobaw (big beasts) resemble small, mobile theaters with a head and a wood-frame body. Small puppets, expertly manipulated, emerge
from the back of this “beast”." - Sources Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali, Africa: The Art of a Continent, A History of Art in Africa
|Bamana Ntomo masquerader
from "Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali"
|Examples below for reference purposes
|Sotheby's Art Africain et Océanien, collection Paolo Morigi
SALE PF5027 AUCTION DATE 06 Dec 2005
LOCATION - Paris
f - IMPORTANT MASQUE, BAMANA, RÉGION DE SÉGOU, MALI
estimate 70,000—100,000 EUR
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 84,000 EUR
haut. 61 cm
An important Bamana mask, Segou region, Mali
The Ntomo is the second of the initiation societies through which each Bamana male would advance from a very early age. According to Cissé (in
Dapper, 2000: 149-150), the Ntomo was placed under the patronage of Faro, god of water, the third divinity to appear in the Bamana creation myth.
Combining the opposing forces of culture and nature, the divinity is described as androgynous, a divinity "at the centre", the "pivot", the "head" of all
things (Dieterlen, 1950). Thus Faro is depicted on the crest of the mask in the Paolo Morigi collection as a figure with a woman's body with a small
Within the corpus of Ntomo masks featuring a representation of the divinity Faro on their crest, there exists a small group of works originating, as does
this one, from the stylistic region of Segou, which can be identified by the power of highly stylised forms: concave, features depicted in high relief
along a median line, the face decorated with linear scarifications.
The mask in the Paolo Morigi collection may therefore be compared to another kept by the Musée du quai Branly (inv. MNAM1963.157), and to two
other masks in private collections, the first of which is reproduced in Colleyn (2002: 105, light patina), and the second in Dapper (2000: 134).
The exceptional worn patina, the formal tension created by the relatively narrow face, the powerful features and the sensitivity of the modelling make
this mask a masterpiece of its kind.
Sotheby's African & Oceanic Art
SALE N07942 AUCTION DATE 14 Nov 2003 10:15 AM.
LOCATION New York
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF ELLYN DELAURA
A FINE BAMANA NTOMO MASK
estimate 8,000—12,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 7,800 USD
height 26 1/2 in. 67.3cm
of hollowed form, the pointed chin beneath the lenticular mouth and pointed nose, the eyes pierced through, the overhanging brow surmounted at the
crown by a stylized crested mane; exceptionally fine and encrusted blackened patina with metal strips at the face.
Aaron Furman, circa 1950's
Doris Cohen Schaper, New York
|From: Remnants of Ritual - Selections from the Gelbard Collection of African Art
Mask, Bamana; Mali
Wood; H. 25"
One of the six best known of Bamana religious associations, Ntomo is a mutual aid association concerned with the education of young uncircumcised boys.
Members wear a wooden face mask during the initiation festival at harvest time and when begging for rice. The number of horns on such masks (two to
eight) symbolizes a human being's levels of increased knowledge. Other masks of this type are covered with cowrie shells or small red seeds with further
esoteric significance. The miniature mask rising from the forehead can be compared to other Ntomo masks that feature a full human or animal figure. The
extremely dark and well-rubbed surface attests to years of age and use.
|Ntomo masks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY