Last November I visited Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki to see the Mami Wata -exhibition of certain West African religions and their objects. They had a lot of interesting things there, but these miniature passport masks really caught my eye. They are palm sized and made from wood or fired clay. Their shape and colouring varies a lot, and their features are fascinating. They were used as passports when crossing tribal borders and as protective amulets in rituals. Just like contemporary passports there too contain personal information about the holder like tribe (obviously), sex, occupation, standing within the tribe and her/his personal guardian god.

I wish I had had the time and the patience to draw them all, but there were about 30 of them on display. They were displayed in a table-like vitrine and I had to stay standing in order to see what I was drawing. The lighting was also bad. The light form the lamps hung overhead the table reflected from the glass, and some of the masks could be seen properly only from really weird angles. The collection is privately owned and so that was a one of a kind opportunity to see the objects. Oh, I should have persisted!

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