Deformity Masks and their Roles in African Culture

The Collection of Ann Goerdt

October 12, 2018 - January 11, 2019

Mask showing facial distortion made with wood, black and white pigments.


This unusual collection, gathered over many years by Ann Goerdt, presents strong images that convince us of their power, even when seen outside of their cultural context. The detailed carving on these masks makes each of them striking and unusual. They originate in a variety of regions across the continent of Africa. Some are from cultures that are known to create masks with deformities, such as the Ibibio and Igbo in Nigeria, but others come from groups where such masks are far less common, such as the Kpelle and the Makonde. The information they are meant to convey varies among the different cultures, but clearly they were significant within their communities.