A Modern Medusa

  Medusa Mask
  Gela Mask from the Guere People, Ivory Coast, West Africa; PRIMITIVE I.D. #A1500-274

Don't tread on her!

Medusa – she has been described as a monster or Gorgon, a creature so dreadful and hideous one look into her eyes turned the viewer to stone. She was born the daughter of noble parents – the earth and ocean - but fell from grace for the sake of love. Her hair became snakes, her skin green and her eyes burning red orbs. She was banished to an island and became a character worthy of her appearance until her beheading. Yet, Medusa’s story continued to unfold and she went on to represent just the opposite. She became a protective deity, the sole figure on an evil-averting amulet called the Gorgoneion, and an inspiration to artists in every corner of the world, as illustrated in this week’s New Arrival.

This week’s New Arrival features a face mask from the Guere people in the Ivory Coast of West Africa. Known formally as a “Gela” mask, a reference to a spirit with a fierce appearance; this particular mask is also known as “the Ancient One,” suggesting the Gela has been around a long time. Yet, it might be more appropriate to call this a “Medusa Mask.” The protruding horns are certainly reminiscent of Medusa’s snaky locks, but a look into the eyes of this mask will not turn the viewer into stone. Instead, it will banish ill will and negative feelings to a place far away called the "forest" by the Guere. It is Medusa’s story in a nutshell. Look ominous, but ultimately, operate for the benefit of the community.