About This Artwork

Diteka (active early to mid-20th century)
Northern Mozambique or southern Tanzania

Helmet Mask (Lipiko), Possibly early/mid–20th century

Wood, human hair, and pigment
H. 26 cm (10 1/4 in.)

Through prior bequest of Florene May Schoenborn, 2017.106

Incarnating ancestral spirits who temporarily return among their living descendants on earth, helmet masks appear in dances that celebrate the conclusion of initiation rituals of Makonde adolescent boys and girls. The dark brown color of this example suggests that it represents a male character. Real human hair has been inserted in irregular patterns on the skull in imitation of a once-fashionable coiffure. Other lifelike characteristics include the angular scarification marks and the row of chipped teeth. The proper name Diteka, inscribed on the mask’s cheek, signals that this is the creation of an inventive artist who was fully aware of his talent and who probably enjoyed some fame in his community.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Museum of Modern Art, "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern; traveled to Detroit Institute of Arts and Dallas Museum of Art), cat. vol. 1, pg. 39.

Marseille, Musée d'arts Africains, Océaniens, Amérindiens, Arman & l'art africain, June 23-October 30, 1996; traveled to Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie, Paris, December 3, 1996-February 17, 1997; Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Museum für Völkerkunde, Cologne, March-June 1997, cat. 103, pg. 130.

Publication History

William Rubin (ed.). 1984. "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, vol. 1, exh. cat. (Museum of Modern Art, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts; Dallas Museum of Art), p. 39.

Alain Nicolas and Marianne Sourrieu. 1996. Arman & l'art africain, exh. cat. (Musée d'Arts africains, océaniens, amérindiens, Marseilles; Musée national des arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie, Paris; Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne; Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren; Museum for African Art, New York). Marseilles: Musée de Marseille - Réunion des Musées nationaux), pg. 130, cat. 103 (ill.).

Peter Stepan. 2005. Spirits Speak: A Celebration of African Masks (Munich/London/New York: Prestel Verlag), pg. 180, pl. 122 (ill.)

Jacques Germain. 2017. Art Ancien de l'Afrique Noire, vol. VIII. (Paris and Montreal, Jacques Germain Arts Ethnographiques, Inc.), pp. 136-137 (ill.).

Ownership History

Arman (Armand Fernandez, 1928-2005), Paris/New York, by 1984 to 2005; by descent to Corice Canton Arman, New York, from 2005 to 2016; sold to Jacques Germain, Montreal, 2016.

Interpretive Resources

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