Kuosi Society Elephant Mask

   Elephant mask by the Bamileke Kuosi Society of Cameroon
  Mbap mteng elephant mask

Can you think of an animal more awe-inspiring than the elephant? If you’re a member of the Bamileke Kingdom in Cameroon, West Africa, you cannot. The Bamileke revere the elephant for its strength and intelligence, and to illustrate their beliefs they create woven masks in the form of this majestic creature. The masks are danced on special occasions by a secret warrior society called the Kuosi. They believe the mask is a source of power strengthening themselves and the entire kingdom. Yet, it is also something more.

Bamileke elephant mask  
The glass beads and indigo cloth used in this mask are indicators of its value and importance to the Bamileke people  

This week’s New Arrival features an Elephant Mask from the Kuosi Society. Composed of indigo cloth and glass beads, it has a formal name that hints at its value and significance. Called a Mbap mteng, which translates as “thing of money,” its name is a reference to the glass beads on its surface – beads that served as a form of money in the 19th century. The mask is not meant to illustrate that money is power, but instead, how real power is derived by emulating the qualities displayed by one of the earth’s largest creatures.

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Part of a much larger collection of authentic African art