Masks like this one are called Kponungo, meaning “funeral head mask.” They incorporate imagery from many powerful animals, including antelopes, buffaloes, crocodiles, warthogs, hornbills, chameleons and humans. The masks are danced during special ceremonies, especially funerals, among the Senufo peoples of West Africa. It is believed that the combined power of the animals helps to ward off evil, sickness and ill-will. Outsiders call these types of masks “firespitter masks” because they often perform after dark, appearing to spit fire as the dancer blows on a glowing ember held in the mask’s open mouth. This mask is probably a special type of Kponungo mask called a Gbon. Gbon masks are less elaborate and danced at funerals to control and guide the soul of the deceased.
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
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Senufo (African people)
Senufo (African people)--Social life and customs
Funeral rites and ceremonies
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