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
BAMANA, Kono Mask 1, 40", SOLD
Masks of the Kono association, which enforces civic morality, are also elongated and encrusted with sacrificial material. The kono masks were also used in agricultural rituals, mostly to petition for a good harvest. They usually represent an animal head with long open snout and long ears standing in a V from the head, often covered with mud. In contrast to komo masks, which are covered with feathers, horns and teeth, those of the kono society are elegant and simple. The headdress are worn horizontally.
Bamana jow (initiation societies) have a tremendous importance in social and religious life. In jow like Komo, Kono, Nama, and Ci-wara, among others, one gains access to secret knowledge by traveling and working for a reputed master (soma). Some villages may not have even a single jo, while in many others several societies may coexist and compete with one another. Although jow are considered men's organizations, in numerous cases women may make offerings to and even seek help from one of the jo deities. Furthermore, each jo has one female official who may perform important ritual functions, though she is not supposed to know the society's secrets. Bamana rely on their jow for social interaction and as a means to address such problems as sickness, misfortune, and mystical aggression. While these societies are influential in political and judicial matters, today most of their power is overshadowed by state institutions and Islam.