This well-documented mask was once worn in performances conducted by the N’domo, the first of several initiation associations in Bamana culture tasked with guiding the development of men from youth to old age to insure an ordered community life. All Bamana males receive a six-stage social and religious instruction. The first stage, or N’domo, lasts approximately five years and culminates in boys’ circumcision. The N’domo mask is said to depict primordial man in his uncircumcised, androgynous state.

In its most basic form, the N’domo mask depicts a human face topped with a side-to-side row of vertical horns, which number from four to eight. The antelope adorning the top of this mask is framed by two female figures and the ends of its horns are connected, an extremely unusual iconography in Bamana sculpture. This rare mask is from the Segou region of southern Mali.

From Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 89 (2015)
Artist Bamana, African
  • Mask (Ndomo)
Date 19th century
Medium Wood
Dimensions Overall: 34 inches (86.4 cm)
Credit Line Museum Purchase, Ernest and Rosemarie Kanzler Foundation Fund
Accession Number 2014.39
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
On View African: Journey of Life N105, Level 1 (see map)
(Christie's, New York, New York, USA);
2014-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)