African and Oceanic Art

Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art

African and Oceanic Art

The MGMoA’s African and Oceanic collection includes masks, jewelry, figures, household objects, and weapons from many cultures across Africa and the Oceanic cultures.

African and Oceanic Art


Igbo Maiden Mask (Nigeria)

The Igbo Maiden Spirit mask symbolizes the ideals of female beauty. This mask is worn by young men on harvest festivities (yams rites) and on annual ceremonies to honor the earth spirit “ane,” as well as funerals for important members of society. The dancers wear brightly colored costumes with false breasts to show that they are representing a woman. The masks reflect elaborate hairstyles for women.

Bronze Figures (Cameroon)

Bronze is an alloy mainly consisting of copper with aluminum, manganese, zinc or nickel mixed in. This pair is a man and woman, both sitting on stools, seemingly laughing with arms stretched out. Both torsos are decorated with a spiral design. Both are also wearing bracelets. An example of these types of bracelets is also located in the African and Oceanic Gallery. These bracelets were used as a form of currency. The more bracelets one had, the more money one had. Often, they were used for a dowry to compensate a family for the loss of their daughter due to marriage. The pair’s stylized faces mimic the style of some of the nearby masks.

Bamana Chi Wara Headress (Bamani Mali)

The Chi Wara design combines an antelope, anteater and human elements. This headdress would have been attached to a woven raffia cap which would have kept it on the wearer’s head. The rest of the body would have been covered in a raffia costume. Dance ceremonies utilizing Chi Wara were once secret male ceremonies designed to instill in young boys the importance of farming techniques. Today, the entire village participates, including women. The dancers that wear the mask make leaping movements like antelopes and hoeing movements to signify working in the fields. As the farmers dance, women imitate their movements and sing praise songs.

Baining Fire Dance Mask (Papua New Guinea)

This mask is created by the Central Baining peoples of New Britain, part of the New Guinea Islands, northeast of Australia. The Baining Fire Dance mask is made from reeds and bark cloth. This mask is used in an all-male evening dance. During the day, the dances focus on female oriented tasks and activities. The night dances focus on male-oriented activities and areas especially the chaotic world of the forest. The fire dance masks illustrate animals and plants associated with the forest. These dances last all night long with the men keeping the fire going until daybreak. The Baining Fire Dance was a rite of passage to initiate young men into adulthood.

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Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art

1900 West MacArthur
Shawnee, OK 74804

contact us405.878.5300

Home: mgmoa.org

The Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art is supported by these organizations and generous donors like you!

  • Allied Arts
  • Oklahoma Arts Council
  • Art Works

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