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The Mama live on the plateaus of northern Nigeria. Almost inaccessible, this extremely varied region from an ethnic and linguistic point of view, has in the past been the site of numerous migrations and invasions. The plateau region has a long artistic tradition behind it, for it is here that the Nok civilization blossomed – one that has given us the most ancient evidence of terracotta figurative sculpture from West Africa. From an artistic viewpoint, the Mama are producers of rather abstract masks that are associated with the world of the ancestral spirits – spirits who exercise an important function of social control. One finds the image of the buffalo and the antelope among the Mama. These animals are closely related to the material prosperity provided by good harvests. This mask represents the stylized image of a buffalo, whose horns form a circle. Inspired on the living model of a dwarf buffalo, it belongs to the exclusively male association which have inherited their power directly from the ancestors, and whose purpose is to maintain social order and agricultural productivity. An animal of the bush with a most dangerous reputation, the buffalo is often the image for potency and occult power. The dances where the buffalo intervenes are often related to human and agricultural fecundity.
Provenance: Raskin Private Collection