Mumuye Buffalo Mask and Costume

Mumuye buffalo masks are used in the Vaa-Bong masquerade of initiation of young boys..

Tribe: Mumuye

Origin: Nigeria

Approx Age: 1960-70

Materials: Wood mask, hibiscus fibre costume

Dimensions cm: mask: 52 long x 20 wide. costume:145 long approx

Ref. Number: 1205


Mumuye buffalo mask and costume made from hibiscus fibre, the construction intricately plaited fibre for strength to keep it fixed to the wooden mask for dancing is ingenious. Lovely patina on the mask from use and handling, very slight old insect damage to the middle of the top of the mask. Red colouring from cam-wood powder, white: kaolin and soot are used to make the black. It’s not every day you see these masks with full adornment.


This Mumuye buffalo mask is used in the Vaa-Bong masquerade, it is held at the end of the dry season in the village of Pantisawa. Capes of flowing hibiscus fiber are attached directly to the horizontal masks, which sit on top of the head. This performance coincided with a stage of funerary rites when pots, which have bush cow finials that look just like the masks, were smashed in an act that distanced the dead from the living. Photograph by Arnold Rubin, April 1970, Pantisawa, Rubin Archive, Fowler Museum at UCLA.

Vaa-bong helmet masks are used during the initiation of young Mumuye boys into the Vaa-Bong cult. At the end of the initiation period, vaa-bong masquerades dance in male-only groups or in pairs with their female counterpart (considered their wives).

The masks are also danced during the funeral of male community members and are also used during ritual ceremonies to encourage successful harvests.

Information source:


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