Title: Helmet Mask (agwe chaka) for the Nchibe Society
Date: early 20th century
Artist: Unidentified Widekum artist
Medium: wood, human hair, hide, and metal
16 9/16 x 9 7/16 in. (42.1 x 24 cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object Number: 26:1942
Place associated: Momo Division, Northwest province, Cameroon
Current Location: Not On View
The stretched and dried animal hide, used to cover the surface of this helmet mask ("agwe chaka"), makes it particularly striking. Before it was performed, the skin of this mask was rubbed with oil, causing the skin to glisten, while the eyes were highlighted with white kaolin clay. This evocative mask was originally commissioned for the use of the Nchibe Society, in particular for the funerals of important men within the community. In addition to the mask, the performer wore a large gown, with a raffia sack tucked over his back. This sack was meant to suggest the carrying of a child, who symbolically would replace the celebrated deceased.
Exhibition History
Title: African Sculptures from the Frank Crowninshield Collection
Date: October 16 – November 7, 1941
Venue: McMillen Inc.
Publication History
Title: West African Sculpture: Sacred Space, Spirit and Power
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: John W. Nunley
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Art in American Collections
Author: Warren M. Robbins
Author: Robert H. Simmons
Title: John Graham and the Crowninshield Collection of African Art
Periodical Title: Winterthur Portfolio
Author: Christa Clarke
Title: The St. Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collections
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Sculptures from the Frank Crowninshield Collection
Year Published: 1941
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