Rooster-Cameleon Mask

Burkina Faso, Nuna. 20th century
Wood, pigment
1994.4.78
Ex coll. William S. Arnett

Animal imagery is widespread in African masquerades. Often traits of different animals are fused together to create mythical creatures from the spirit world. Nuna masks represent bush spirits and perform every market day and at funerals and initiations. The rooster’s red beak protrudes forward, while its ridged crest thrusts upward, morphing into the body and tail of a chameleon, a creature associated with magical powers, transformation, and fertility. The geometric designs incised on the mask are called scars and bear the same meaning as human scarification patterns.