Back to all glossary items

[the mask of chiefship] General term referring to a group of masks that represent different chiefly families or clans among the Temne. They are invariably made of brass, which is the metal particularly associated by the Temne with chiefship, and typically take the form of a helmet mask covering the whole head, with one or two brass faces. They appear rarely, usually heralding the appearance of the paramount chief at the conclusion of the ceremonies of his ritual coronation as chief. Each mask of chiefship has its own name which links it to the chiefly family or clan whose spirit or 'kerfi' he embodies: thus the mask of the Tarrawali chiefs in Makari-Gbanti chiefdom is Pa-a-Tharrma [Head of the Tarrawalis]; the mask of the Jallohs in Yoni chiefdom is Pa-a-Yalu [Head of the Jallohs]; the mask of the Kanus in Buya-Romende chiefdom is Pa-a-Kenthi [Head of the Kanus]; and so on.

  • W.A.Hart, 'The mask of a Temne dynasty', Bulletin of the Barbier-M�ller Museum, 1990, 1, 3-15.