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Conservation of Bambara Ceremonial Dance Mask

February 22, 2021

2 minute read

Bambara Ceremonial Dance Mask

Upon returning home, a private collector discovered that their beautiful antique Bambara ceremonial dance mask had fallen and broken in several places. One of the horns had completely broken off and the back of the mask was deeply cracked. It was brought to Lowy for conservation.

Bambara Ceremonial Dance Mask Before 2

This 10 x 10 x 16” mask is hand carved and painted wood adorned with tassels and leather. The mask represents the head of a buffalo and the large horns symbolize fertility. Such masks were made from the mid-18th century up until today. This particular type of mask was made in the central part of Mali by the Bambara people who form the largest ethnic group there. It was used by savannah herders for their celebration of the end of the dry season, a festival which was accompanied by masked dances and palm wine.

Bambara Ceremonial Dance Mask Before

Lowy conservator, Claudia Trombin, did the conservation of this piece.

Surface dirt was first removed with a soft brush and the mask was HEPA cleaned. It was humidified to make the wood more pliable and then the verso was carefully clamped using progressive pressure to realign the cracked wood. The horn was reinforced with a wood dowel and securely reattached. The fracture and cracks were then filled with wood dust and dry pigment stucco. Damages were minimally inpainted to match the wood and original paint. After the mask was returned once again to its original beauty, the client was very pleased with the conservation.

Bambara Ceremonial Dance Mask Final