Gallery Talk: Inside a Senufo Helmet Mask

Wednesday, March 18, 12:15 p.m.

DMA curator Dr. Roslyn Walker will discuss a recent collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Dallas Zoo that revealed the inner workings of a Senufo helmet mask from the Museum’s African art collection.

A medium wears this kind of mask as a helmet at initiations, funerals, harvest celebrations, and secret events conducted by the powerful male-only Komo society, which has traditionally maintained social and spiritual harmony in Senufo villages in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Visible attachments on the mask include a female figure, cowrie shells, and imported glassware. CT-scans completed with the assistance of UT Southwestern Medical Center reveal unexpected materials beneath the surface and objects contained in the attached animal horns that empower the mask.


Image: Helmet mask (komo), Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, Senufo peoples, mid-20th century, wood, glass, animal horns, fiber, mirrors, iron, and other materials, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley, 1997.24