N'Tomo Mask


Republic of Mali

N'Tomo Mask, late 19th-early 20th century

  • On View

Wood and metal

Dimensions: 19 1/2 × 9 1/8 × 4 1/2 in. (49.5 × 23.2 × 11.4 cm)

Gift of Dr. Robert and Deanna Harris Burger, 2009.192

Religious, social, and political institutions of the Marka people are regulated by a number of men’s secret societies. The N’Tomo society is the first that young boys join in their journey through adulthood. The N’Tomo serve to socialize and educate the community’s boys until the time of their initiation and circumcision. The boys wear a N’Tomo mask like this as they dance in initiation celebrations. The horns of a N’Tomo mask vary in number from four to ten and refer to the primordial seeds made by the Marka’s creator god to create the universe. The number of horns on the mask indicates its gender association. Multiples of three are regarded as masculine, four or eight horns as feminine, and two, five, or seven horns as androgynous. With six horns this mask is masculine.

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