Faked Kpelié masks: The impossibility

Senufo art Kpelié mask fake Senoufo style
Faked Kpelié mask with incorrect style elements


Sometimes I wonder how weird and bizarre a fake can be.




Quite often you can find objects that are unlogic or that are up to pure fantasy. I talked about the style mixture of different tribes in a former blog article about chemical treatment. With all due to respect to Ebay (in the past I did find great authentic pieces there), but on this market place you get offered a grotesque horror show of what we call in Germany a "Stilblüte" (bloomer), an object created to ubsurdity.


In case of the Kpelié mask above you see a smooth, balanced, thin and accurate cast. Apart of the fantasy decoration elements at both sides, the disturbing overload of facial scars and the chemical treatment with Noirit to darken the bronze alloy, the impossibility of this mask is at the center top: The Capok fruit feature.


It is for sure that this mask was casted by a Fono, a Senufo smither. The Capok fruit is a symbol of the Koulé, Senufo carvers who work their objects in wood and never metal. Creating in authentic tradition a Fono would never ever use the symbol of a Koulé. That is not even incongruous, that is a clash in traditional notion and persuation. I said before, that the Senufo keep and safe their cultural identity by repeating their traditional sculpture. But this mask shows a manipulation that creates a wrong identity.


In general it can be said, that the following named objects are typical for center tops of Kpelié metal masks, casted by a Fono or Loko: A chameleon, the Calao bird touching the forehead of the face of the mask with his peg, a sitting or standing female Tugubele spirit  or, on older masks, an abstract geometric object, that is sometimes shaped like an arrow and is decoratet with certain wax threat techniques. There are also many Kpelié masks in metall known, that show no center top.


Especially this shown style and shape of masks find a large-scale production in the area of Korhogo.

Faked Kpelié mask Region Korhogo.

29,0 x 15,5 x 7,0 cm, bronze alloy.



- Wenn Urform Form bestimmt, Markus Ehrhard, page 172 - 173.

Copyright content and images by Markus Ehrhard