Buffalo mask (sigma)

20th–mid 20th century

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas, United States

This mask is carved in the form of a highly stylized buffalo. The mask is viewed simultaneously from the front and rear; the projecting beaklike form is described by locals as a tail.

This mask appears in a masquerade called Simma that is performed by farmers. The masquerade is performed at funeral celebrations and when a community’s well-being is threatened, for example by a drought or malevolent spirits. The mask is worn diagonally on the head. The meaning of the nails driven into the cheeks of the mask is unknown.


  • Title: Buffalo mask (sigma)
  • Date Created: 20th–mid 20th century
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 21 3/4 x 12 5/8 x 8 in. (55.245 x 32.068 x 20.32 cm)
  • Type: Costume
  • External Link: https://www.dma.org/object/artwork/5328646/
  • Medium: Wood, camwood, paint, nails, wrought iron, animal hide, sheet metal, fiber, and paste-like substance
  • culture: Vagala peoples, Nyamase group
  • Credit Line: Dallas Museum of Art, gift of John Lunsford in gratitude for Margaret McDermott's great devotion to traditional African Art

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