Puppet head (merekun)

20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Mali


Overall: 31 x 7 x 8 cm (12 3/16 x 2 3/4 x 3 1/8 in.) Lender Accessory (base): 6 x 5.5 x 6 cm (2 3/8 x 2 3/16 x 2 3/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, brass tacks, nail

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



Among the many Bamana art forms is sogo bò, a puppet masquerade theater shared with the Bozo and other neighboring peoples. Organized by village youth associations, whose male and female members range from age fourteen to about thirty-five, the theater’s aim is entertainment, allowing young men and women to explore the moral universe and gain knowledge through play, humor, satire, and wit. Sogo bò performances include small puppets on rods, whose handlers hide behind large textile enclosures when performing. This a merekun puppet, representing a female character, and may have been attached to a larger puppet figure. Puppets and masks used in such performances entered collections early on, but their context remained evasive, partly because they arrived as fragments. Artists make them to this day.


1955, sold by Pierre Verite, 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