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Re: [African_Arts] Re:African mask

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  • Ian Gonzalez
    Hi Lee, thanks for this direction, it is an excellent primer. It does not address the possible appearance of the mask prior to losing or having cut away some
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 10, 2009
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      Hi Lee, thanks for this direction, it is an excellent primer. It does not address the possible appearance of the mask prior to losing or having cut away some of its stock (though I believe some of your earlier images show Baoulé masks in profile with flanges that encompass the wearer's face, and I imagine this might be similar to my mask's original appearance).  Nor does it help me place this particular character --"EMOU N'SIAN"--into an alternate tradition or sub-group of Baoulé masquerade (presumably it does not belong in the Mblo, Goli, et cetera groups).  Those were the primary questions I was seeking to answer following Baillié's initial identification of the mask. The irony of dance masks' portability frequently severing them from the constellation of symbols in music, costume, text, formalized gesture and so forth that complete their significance is not lost on me, but I hope your direction may be a corrective to people that are only interested in sculptural or aesthetic qualities of masks.   Therefore, if anyone else in the group has information or theories about these questions I would be very glad to have them.
      Best regards,

      From: Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@...>
      To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thursday, January 8, 2009 12:55:18 PM
      Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re:African mask


      As you observe, the mask which you queried bears structural signs on its reverse or underside which point toward diverse aspects of more complex, multi-faceted masquerade performance and tradition of which the carved wooden portion of a mask is indeed just a small, portable element.  Absent are the additional costume elements that further conceal the individual as well as the music, the motion, the dramatic narrative, the social contexts of preparation and performance.  

      Among the on-line resources available which help to remedy this visual deficiency of presentation is the Eloit Elisofon Photographic Archives.

      Some photographs which illustrate the larger, more complete masquerade ensemble can be viewed in these images linked below (among many images from the Archives [see link above] which is available for further exploration by culture, topic, geography, etc.


      A broader on-line search of videos can also yield some masquerade performances in motion with sound.  Lee

      On Jan 3, 2009, at 1:15 PM, iangonzalez58 wrote:

      Dear Baillié,

      Thanks very much for this identification. Aside from the style or 
      personage that you have identified, do you have any information on 
      the dance tradition to which the mask belongs (your earlier statement 
      says it is not Mblo)? Perhaps although it is Baoulé it is not from 
      the masquerade tradition at all? Perhaps not even the type of mask 
      that is danced?

      A more careful examination of the mask suggests that it may once have 
      been considerably larger and that stock--a flange or framing element 
      behind the ears and around the inner circumference of the mask--on 
      both sides of the face was broken or cut away in antiquity (by 
      antiquity I only mean to suggest that the wood surface over the 
      breaks is as patinated as on the other surfaces). Evidence of this 
      are the blackened perforations just above each earlobe, both of which 
      minutely deform the carving of the lobes. Grooves farther up on both 
      sides of the mask were mask-attachment perforations before original 
      stock was lost. Also, there is another groove behind the chin that 
      was also a perforation. I am posting images of all these:
      http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/African_ Arts/photos/ album/1110831601 /pic/list

      After reading Lee´s Jan. 2006 exploration of male/female dualities in 
      the Mblo and Goli traditions, I looked closely for remnants of paint 
      on the mask without finding any.

      Best regards,

      --- In African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com, ballié <amballie@.. .> wrote:
      > The right vernicular name :
      > EMOU N'SIAN
      > N'SIAN = GOD
      > EMOU = DEATH
      > Your son is very fluently french. Bravo !

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