Masque Ubi - Côte d'ivoire
This mask from Ivory Coast is one of the rarest mask of the limited corpus of Ubi masks. Indeed, the Ubi tribe is a part of the Krou region, neighbours of the We and Bete, and are part of the few tribes of the West that have a masking tradition. These institutions of the war mask has fallen into disuse. The few left exemplaries are thus of pre colonial period. The war masks were dancing during several different occasions as social regulators in the society. These objects would represent intermediaires between the world beyond and the power of the sacred of the ancestors. They would thus play a role in war excursions and during ceremonies that aimed at restoring peace after armed conflicts. The masks were the first to welcome the tribe’s members, returning victoriously to the village. But they would also participate in a more general context in customary law sessions, the masks being shown at the time when judgements were publicly rended. The mask endorses thus a ritual initiatic use as well as a protective role.
The features of the mask express the full power of the representation. The multiple engraved horns create an impressive structural arrangement. Those twisted horns could be the representation of the tarantula known for its lethal venom. The mask is thus full of the force of the spider that makes it invincible.
The horns on the forehead are joined in a continuous sculpted line forming a visor over the half opened almond shaped eyes that surmount a strong nose. The head above is turbaned with a colored cloth. Two horns curl up to the lower cheeks from the temples while what could be two tusks bend from the lower face and join in front of the mouth. The side of the face are adorned with two horns carved with scrolled incisions, and what could be two flat ears.
The dark deep nuanced patina emphasises the powerful volumes of the facial projections and testifies of the ritual use of this extraordinary and unique exemplary of Ubi mask.