Adoné Antelope mask headdress

The Kurumba people produce a mask headdress in the form of an antelope. The powerful neck supports a head with a long pointed protruding
snout. Earlier versions had large ears curving to the towering horns in a semi-circular fashion (echoing the curve of the chi wara mane of the
Bamana). These earlier versions were fashioned with masks covering the face much like the masks of neighboring Dogon cultures.

Pre-colonial styles were painted with geometric designs in natural pigments of white (kaolin), black (river mud or charcoal) and reddish brown
(ochre) as are the Dogon masks. More recent styles have long sharp ears (many still curving towards the tall horns) and are colorfully painted
with more distinct patterns of triangles in white, brownish-red, black, light blue and yellow ochre. As in the earlier models, the triangles are filled
with rows of white dots. The horns are banded in stripes of the same colors (Wassing p. 182).

The new styles are secured to the top of the head with head and shoulders disguised with raffia. The dancer wears a raffia skirt. Like the
Bamana, they dance in pairs and sometimes appear with a masked hyena dancer as in the photo below from the book "The Dance, Art and
Ritual of Africa" by Michel Huet.

Kurumba masks are used in three major events during the annual cycle: masks escort the corpse of dead male and female elders to the tomb
and supervise the burial on behalf of the spirits of the ancestors of the clan. Weeks or even months later, during the dry season, masks appear
at funerals to honor the deceased and to free the spirit to travel to the world of ancestors. Finally, just before the first rains in late May and June,
masks appear at collective sacrifices in which the ancestors are honored together with the spirits of the protective antelope, Hippotragus koba ,
that is the totem of most Kurumba clans.

These functions conform to patterns throughout Burkina Faso, especially in the north. Masks appear for the same events among the northern
Mossi, in Yatenga, Risiam, and Kaya, because the ancestors of the northeastern Mossi who use masks were Kurumba. At funerals, and at public
performances following the funeral, masks are physical reembodiments of the spirit of the deceased elder, and the mask may be addressed
using the dead person's name. The mask is a means of preserving the memory of the dead, by providing a physical reminder of the dead elder's
achievements in life. As among the Mossi, masks are used as portable altars on which the living may offer sacrifices to the dead, securing their
blessings for the year to come. In addition, the mask carved at the death of a high-ranking clan elder serves to enhance the prestige of the
deceased. When not in use, masks may be placed on altars in the ancestral spirit house within the family compound.

Among the Kurumba as among peoples in central Burkina Faso, the geometric patterns painted on masks are symbols that refer to major events
in the myths of the founding of the clan, and the masks themselves represent the antelope that played a role in these stories when it saved the
life of the founding elder.
Sources: A History of Art in Africa / Africa - The Art of a Continent / The Tribal Art of Africa / The Dance, Art and Ritual of Africa
Photo: Michel Huet
The Kurumba, who live on the borders of Upper Volta and Mali, are said to have been chased from their native territory further to
the north by the Dogon invaders They migrated to the Yatenga district in the Lurum region, where they have been settled since the
sixteenth century. Recent studies by Dutch archaeologists and anthropologists have, however, challenged this long-held thesis.

The Nioniosi, as the Kurumba call themselves, are grouped into several clans: the Sawadougou, the Oueremi, the Zale, the Tao,
and so on. They use a cultural material consisting mainly of steles, forks and masks. This material is designed to establish a
relationship between the etiological elements of the myth and the cyclical or historical events of funeral or agrarian rituals.

The adoné, sculptures depicting antelopes, are mostly shown at the ceremonies marking the end of the mourning for a 'land chief.
The wandering spirit of the deceased, his shadow, is captured by the adoné, and is thus made temporarily into the seat of the altar.

The polychrome antelopes seem to be the property of the Sawadougou clan, and the sculptors and wearers of the adoné are
recruited exclusively from this family. This privilege reinforces the religious power of the Sawadougou, who are regarded as the
direct descendants of the founder-ancestors of the Nioniosi society.

According to the original myth, Sawadougou, the civilizing hero, is said to have descended from the sky wearing a mask. His wife
and children, who accompanied him, were endowed with the features of the antelope, the hyena and the hare.
Beautifully carved in slender forms the work is covered with geometric patterns in old polychrome.
Nicely weathered the largest portion is hollowed out and is pierced for attachment.
mid 20th century

Provenance: Marc Assayag with Tookalook Native Arts
Ex Vorpal Gallery of San Francisco and New York
measures 38" x 12" 3/4 x 3" 3/4
This object is no longer in my collection
I love this photograph below by Michel Huet from the incredible book
"The Dance, Art and Ritual of Africa"
Other examples for reference
Kurumba mask, Adone type, from the book ”Afrikansk masker” by Leif Birger Holmstedt

Mask, large gazelle head with attenuated horns, raffia mane and
blue and red accents. Intricately carved from a single piece of wood.
Ca. 1980s.


Antelope Mask
Africa, Upper Volta, Kurumba Tribe,
mid-20th Century
c. 1960
Cleveland Museum of Art
Kurumba People.
Burkina Faso.
Height: 86 inches.
Depth (chin to farthest back
part of head) 19 inches.
Wood and pigments.
Mid twentieth century.
Patina of use.
Antelope Headdress.
Burkina Faso.
Height is 64 inches.
Wood, pigments.
Early to mid 20th Century.
51" tall, this is a very fine quality example of this distinctive
and well-known form in African art. The Kurumba, a small
tribe in northern Burkina Faso, wear these in a dance
celebrating the death of a chief or other important person.
They are normally danced in pairs. This mask is probably
the best known object the Kurumba make and use so the
mask itself is most often called quite simply a Kurumba.
Sotheby's - New York
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Auction Date : May 12, 2005


adoné, of attenuated proportions, the cylindrical neck hollowed at the base with tiny pierced eyeholes and pierced at the perimeter for attachment leading
to the elongated snout and tall backswept ears and horns, the whole decorated with bands of diamond and dot motifs in blue, white and red pigment;
aged and varied surface.

Emile P. Brocco Collection
Acquired from Sotheby Parke-Bernet, April 26, 1969, lot 47

Cf. Roy (1987: 199, figure 162 and 201, figure 164) for related masks in the collections of the Musée de l'Homme and The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Kurumba masks were used during major events associated with funerary rites and commemoration of the ancestors together with the spirits of 'the
protective antelope, Hippotragus koba, that is the totem of most Kurumba clans....As among groups in central Burkina Faso [to the south of the
Kurumba], the geometric patterns painted on masks are symbols that refer to major events in the myths of the founding of the clan, and the masks
themselves represent the heroic antelope that played a role in these stories when it saved the life of the founding elder' (ibid. : 198-202).

height 53 1/2 in. 136cm

$ 12,000 - $ 18,000  

Kurumba adoné mask in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Rand African Art
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