Kota - Emboli or Mbuto mask

The Kota helmet masks known as emboli or mbuto measure between 40 and 80 cm. In Kota villages the masks are worn during dances in celebration
of the initiation of adolescent boys. During the ‘pedagogical’ part of the ritual the elders demonstrate to the young men that the masks are not
monsters but human beings like themselves. The mask is also worn during anti-sorcery séances or for psychotherapeutic purposes. The mask
representing a human head with a crest similar to the sagittal crest of the gorilla, covers the dancer’s face completely and is supported by a
basketwork frame.
Sources: A History of Art in Africa / Africa - The Art of a Continent / The Tribal Art of Africa
Kota face mask

The white painted face mask with pierced eyes and open mouth, having enlarged brown painted eyebrowns and nose,
with a large horn atop the head.
Height 49 cm. (19 in.)

Acquired from Ritchies Auction House, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Provenance: Ex Dr. J. Ollers Collection


Dr. Jan Olof Ollers (Stockholm 1917-Toronto 2001) collected African, Asian and Northwest coast Indian art in Europe
and North American from the late 1930s. An eye surgeon by profession, his passion was for African art, painting and all
things aesthetic. He was inspired at an early age by his father, a renowned Swedish painter and glass designer, to
pursue these interests. They manifested themselves in his collecting and a voracious reading on the subject of African
and tribal art, as well as being an accomplished painter. Dr. Ollers first collection of turn-of-the-century pieces (over
1,000 items) was sold at auction by Sothebys, London in 1973. The current collection, a part of which is offered here,
was acquired through estate sales, auctions and dealers in Canada and Europe.

(Information on Jan Ollers from the Richies Auction House auction catalog)
Other examples of Kota
masks from Gabon

estimate 18,000—25,000 EUR
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:   52,580 EUR (
$64,318 USD aprox)

height: 56.5cm., 22¼in.

of immense hollowed form and pierced around the rim for the attachment of a costume, the flat faceted concave facial plane with
protruding oval mouth beneath the linear protruding nose leading to arching brows and framed by deeply set square pierced eyes and
semi-circular protruding ears, all beneath the flat crown with horns rising above, decorated on the surface in alternating bands of black
and white pigments with red ochre on the mouth. This lot contains 1 item(s).

Charles Ratton, Paris
Dr. Helmut Beck, Stuttgart (acquired from the above in 1941)

This rare mask shares many characteristics with other well-known examples from north and central Gabon. See Perrois (1979: figure
101) for a closely related example of a Sô society mask. This mask, collected between 1905 and 1909 by Tessman, now in the
Ethnographic Museum, Lübeck, shares the plank-like facial plane, the small, oval, protruding mouth, and a straight nose which then
flares into an arching brow framing the protroduing eyes, and is surmounted by attenuated horns at the top. It is also decorated with a
geometric, polychromed surface. Another Bakota mask from the Barbier-Mueller collection (Perrois 1985: figure 17) shares some similar
characteristics as well with the present example. It is decorated with a more irregular geometric pattern, like the present example, and
has protruding eyes inset into a concave, flared plane and is surmounted with horns. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of this
mask, the stylistic similarities suggest north or central Gabon. This mask is clearly extremely old given the layers upon layers of
encrusted patina evident on the interior and exterior.
Kota mbuto mask
Seattle Art Museum