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Toma Landai mask

Toma Landai mask
Toma Landai maskToma Landai maskToma Landai maskToma Landai mask
Tribe: Toma
Country: Guinea
Ritual: Poro
Name: Landai
Materials: Wood, nails, kaolin
Provenance: Guy Earl Smith Tribal Art Auction, Sydney 2006. Andrew Turley SuagaCollection 2006.
Comments: This 78cm mask has several tribal repairs, it has very smooth wood along the edges of the large, flat facial plane and has patination across the kaolin motifs leading me to date it at around 1980.

The Toma are known for their long wooden masks that combine human and animal features. Nearly all masks were associated with the men's society known as the Poro. The Poro association was responsible for enforcing regulations regarding land use, initiation, marriage, and trade.

This large Toma mask represents the most important forest spirit, Landai, a male diety that helped to manifest the powers of the Poro society. This, the largest type of Toma mask, could be over five feet tall with a long, crocodile-toothed maul extending in front. The mid-section is composed of a human-like face with an exaggerated nose and forehead. Among its many responsibilities the mask ceremonially ate young boys during the frightening ritual of Poro initiation ceremonies, allowing them to then be reborn as men. The mask was adorned with long feathers at the top.

The Toma, known alternately as the Loma, are one of the numerous tribes of Mande-speaking people who descended from the northern savanna region into the forested band of west Africa during the turbulent times of the later days of the Malian Empire (1230-1670). Today, they number approximately two hundred thousand and are more or less equally divided between northern Liberia and southern Guinea (in Liberia, they are known as Loma while in Guinea the Mande form Toma is utilized).


  1. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  2. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  3. www.hamillgallery.com, 2006.