Face Mask With Superstructure


Republic of Mali

Face Mask with Superstructure, n.d.

  • On View

Polychromed wood

Dimensions: 142 × 9 in. (360.7 × 22.9 cm)

Gift of Justice and Mrs. G. Mennen Williams, 1973.55

According to Dogon culture all masks belong to the afterworld, a celestial realm where life and death meet. There are over eighty different types of Dogon masks, but this Sirige funerary mask is one of the most sacred. Primarily used in the Dama ceremony, a funerary rite to honor and commemorate a deceased elder of the community, the Sirige mask and its placement on the dancer’s body act as a conduit to connect the afterworld and Earth. Without the performance of a Dama ritual, the dead cannot rest in peace in the afterlife. By biting down on a bar in the back of the mask the dancer swings the mask to create an arc-like motion, representing the arc of the sun and the movement of the universe. Highly skilled dancers perform with the Sirige mask because the performance requires a great amount of strength and balance. Designed to look like a house and each level of the mask another floor, the height of the Sirige symbolizes the many generations of a family. Although geometric patterns and decorative carving divide the Sirige, the mask is carved from a single tree branch.

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