Kore monkey mask

African, Mali, Bamana peoples
20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Mali


Overall: 32 x 20 x 18 cm (12 5/8 x 7 7/8 x 7 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



The Kore initiation society was an important rite of passage for teenage boys. The boys, who were taken from the village and symbolically “killed”, returned to the village as men. During their initiation ritual, would-be initiates were subjected to physical tests as they learned about medicine, sexuality, their relationship with their elders and their ancestors.

The monkey mask (Sulaw) is one of three animal masks associated with the Kore initiation society, the other two being the hyena (Surukuw) and the lion (Jaraw). Initiates would wear these masks at the end of their initiation cycle and would imitate the animals they incarnated.


1964, sold by Galerie Carrefour, Paris, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart