This impressive and uncommon mask is thought to have originated in the Bonduku region of Côte d'Ivoire. Its unique form suggests a hippopotamus’ head appearing just above the water’s surface and it bears remnants of ritual substances and wear, suggesting that it is both early and used locally.

This work is sold with a digital copy of a letter of expertise by William Fagg, Keeper of the Department of Ethnography at the British Museum from 1969–1974.


An Ivory Coast Wood Mask
20 in. 51 cm. long

This deeply impressive mask has, according to several labels in Herr Josef Muller’s hand, been the subject of various conjectures by visiting authorities, the attributions including Guro, Bozo and Bobo. I feel, however, that it may be more convincingly assigned to the Ligbi or another of the small tribes in the Bonduku area of the Ivory Coast. It betrays in much the same was its derivation from Senufo style, notably about the eyes, and while there are no closely similar masks described by Bravmann, this mask is most likely to date from fifty years of more before his expedition when it is clear that their culture was much richer. The unique form of the mask may be intended to suggest a hippopotamus with head just visible above the water. 

William Fagg, C.M.G.

1 December, 1983