Photographs © Tim Hamill
BAMANA, KOMO HELMET MASK 1, 30" length x 19"
wood, quills, cowries, encrustation
Bamana Komo masks and headdresses are of elongated animal head form decorated with actual antelope horns, porcupine quills, bird skulls, feathers and other objects as vessels of power. The headdress are worn horizontally. The sacrificial material seen in the encrustation on the surfaces of these headdresses (also known as a helmet masks) are an indication of their connection with one of the three main Bamana power societies: Komo, Kono and Nama. These headdress are typical of the Komo society, which functions as the custodian of tradition and is concerned with all aspects of community life-agriculture, judicial processes, and passage rites. The Komo is a secret power association of priests, knowledgeable elders, and blacksmiths that forms the central Bamana social institution. Members of the blacksmith clan are born into the Komo society because of their ability to employ the forbidden power of fire to transform matter from one form into another. Blacksmiths of the Komo society wear the society headdress or komo-kun during a dance to invoke nyama, the force that activates the universe.
From an article in African Arts, Winter, 2001 by Jean-Paul Colleyn, Laurie Ann Farrell
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