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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Elder Hiding Behind Something mask (Karan Wemba)

Elder Hiding Behind Something mask (Karan Wemba)

19th-20th century

Vibrant women at the height of their physical beauty are present in mask form to honor their female elders. When such a woman dies, the mask appears as a spiritual escort service.

A sinewy young woman pays tribute to feminine balance. Her straight shoulders and elongated neck enable her to support a plank that is said to be "the way of the road of the dance with the dead."
Wood, pigment
54 x 6 5/16 x 6 5/16 in. (137.2 x 16 x 16 cm)
Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company
Provenance: [Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York]; purchased from gallery by Katherine White (1929-1980), Seattle, Washington, 1962; bequeathed to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 1981
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryCleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, African Tribal Images: The Katherine White Reswick Collection, July 10 - Sept. 1, 1968 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania Museum, Oct. 10 - Dec. 1, 1968). Text by William Fagg. Cat. no. 37 (as Mask with Female Figure).

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, African Sculpture, organized by the International Exhibitions Foundation, Jan. 29 - Mar. 1, 1970 (Kansas City, Missouri, William Rockhill Neslon Gallery, Mar. 21 - Apr. 26, 1970; Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum, May 26 - June 21, 1970).

Los Angeles, California, Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act, Jan. 20 - Mar. 17, 1974 (Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, May 5 - Sept. 22, 1974). Text by Robert Farris Thompson. No cat. no., pp. 106-7, reproduced pl. 146 (as "karan-weba" mask).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Praise Poems: The Katherine White Collection, July 29 - Sept. 29, 1984 (Washington, D.C., National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Oct. 31, 1984 - Feb. 25, 1985; Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, Apr. 6 - May 19, 1985; Fort Worth, Texas, Kimbell Art Museum, Sept. 7 - Nov. 25, 1985; Kansas City, Missouri, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Mar. 8 - Apr. 20, 1986). Text by Pamela McClusky. Cat. no. 34, pp. 76-77, reproduced (as Mask with female figure (karan-wemba)).
Published ReferencesRoy, Christopher D. "Mossi." Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2015; reproduced pl. 21, p. 116.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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