Ann Goerdt, Donna Page, Herbert M. Cole, Peter E. Udo Umoh, Leonard Kahan, and Faustino Quintanilla: Deformity Masks and Their Role in African Cultures: The Ann Goerdt Collection
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The depiction of diseases and physical deformities in African masks has been observed and documented by scholars and others over many years. Within the scholarly world of African art historians, there has long existed a lively discussion about the true meanings of the deformities depicted in these face masks. As Herbert M. Cole, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, notes in his Preface, titled, Disease or Invention? Riffs on Beauty and the Beast, not all deformities in African masks represent disease. Rather, he states that face masks may “… evoke or materialize unseen spirits, often of the bush or wilderness, ghosts or souls of … criminals and other socially detestable villains….” In essence, he proposes that while a number of masks suggest sickness or malformation, others depict “… distortions outside of identifiable disease symptoms.” This beauty/beast paradigm is evidenced in the masks of several groups in southern Nigeria, where...
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The author declares no conflict of interest.