Thanks for the information, I appreciate your thoughts! It is worth me taking a further look at the possibility it could be Ijo. I got the page from the book that you scanned and sent to me and I have added it to the page with my other examples.
Another member of the group, Terry Sasser, emailed me and brought up some interesting questions. I was thinking my hippo head is probably Bidjogo and he more or less was thinking the same but brought up some further questions.
I have added an example of a Bidjogo bull mask on the page for my hippo to show the similar carving qualities between the bull mask and my hippo head. I do not believe my hippo head was intended to be used as a mask and I have put my further thoughts about that fact on my page.
Below is the information and questions that Terry provided to me. It was sent to
me in a private email but Terry said it would be ok to post it to the group. He said these were just his off the top of his head thoughts:
love the hippo mask. I cant say I have seen one just like it but I have a bull which is more common to the Bijogo which is somewhat similar in carving styles; the wrinkles in the skin the treatment around the eyes. Also, I know they have a variety of masks to appease the water spirits and if I lived in and among hippos I would certainly want them appeased.
The main concern is the size of yours as it seems to be about three times the size of the one you referenced and they are complaining about having to carry that small one. Also the Bijogo masks usually have glass eyes as does the other example but I cant tell if yours is glass or not. They do not look to be. And the final also, it would be difficult to
wear a mask with a rod sticking down through it, so perhaps a canoe mounting would allow more use. So maybe due to size, rod, and non-glass eyes this may not be Bijogo after all.
I probably raised more questions than answers but I mainly wrote to say that I love the piece no matter where it is from. I would put it more around 40 years old than 90 but that is just from photos.
My response to him was
From what I have been able to read, I was thinking Bijogo as well because of the similar carving styles and the fact that they did produce hippo masks as well. The trader told me that it was from Mali , but I always
prefer to do research on my own because you never know.
My hippo head was definitely not intended to be a mask, in my opinion. The rod attached to the lower jaw is curved like a hook on the bottom and was either meant to be attached to something, like hooked in a hole in a piece of wood to support it, or held on to underneath a costume of some sorts and operated as a marionette. The rod is attached to the inside of the head and if you hold it and hold on to the head you can open and close the mouth as well as pull the strings that are attached to the ears to make them move.
The eyes on it are not glass like the eyes on many Bidjogo masks (Im not too familiar with Bidjogo mask though). I do agree with you after looking at a Bidjogo bull mask that the carving around the eyes is very similar, I have added a bull mask to my page now. It is much larger than the hippo head/mask that I have put as an example on my page and if my head were held by a young boy it might be heavy, but to a grown man it would be manageable.
If it were mounted to the front of a canoe I could see it being functional, but I dont know too much about the use of such objects on the prow of a canoe? I am sure it is not out of the realm of possibility.
I will agree with you on the age, 92 years seems wrong to me and 40 seems more reasonable. There isnt any raffia on the head though, it is very thick animal hair.
Thanks to everyone so far for their thoughts, it has been a fun day for me finally learning a little more about this interesting piece!
Veronique Martelliere <proximatribal@...> wrote:
Upon further reflection, this hippo-mask could also be an IJO (/ Ijaw). Ijo used such
horizontal helmet-masks to represent water-spirits. As far as I know, the Ijo do not have statues or masks with hinged-jaws - but it is very common among their eastern neighbours.
I found one rather-realistically carved hippo, as yours, in a german book.
The photo is black and white. I'll try to scan it to you.
Sorry for adding another bit of confusion !
Rand African Art <rand@...> wrote:
Just about a year ago I bought a large hippo marionette head that I haven't photographed until today. It came with an "interesting" story, which Vero in the group kindly helped to translate from French to English. It was only told to me when I bought it that it was originally used on the prow of a
pirogue (canoe) and the paper containing the story (in French) was given to me when I bought it.
The hippo head does have a metal rod attached to the underneath of it that would have been used to attach it to something. It is possible, I guess, that the hippo head could have been used on the prow of a piroque (canoe). There are strings that operate the ears and make them move, the mouth also opens and closes. The piece does have some age to it and it is an interesting object, at least to me. I had never really seen anything like it before and liked the fact that it was very unique and I decided I couldn't pass it up. I have never been able to display it in my house because it is large and I need to get some sort of a mount made for it someday so I can display it.
I am usually a pretty resourceful researcher, but on this piece I have come up with very little. I have found one sort of similar example on the Internet, but I
have not been able to find anything in books that I have.
I just created a page on my website for it with the photos I took this morning along with the story that Vero translated for me and the example and information I have been able to come up with.
My question to the group is:
Has anyone ever come across an object similar to this?
Has anyone seen an object like this in any reference books that they can recall?
As I state on my page, I have come to a preliminary conclusion that it must be from Guinea-Bissau even though it was told to me that it came from the Segou region of Mali. Both areas are possible I guess because marionette figures were used in ceremonies in the Segou area as well.
Link to the page for it on my website:
If you have any thoughts or ideas on it I'd love to know, I've been cusious about it for a while.
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