Mossi Staff with Human Head - Burkina Faso

A masterful reinterpretation of the human form, both playful and sculpturally stunning, marks this magnificent Mossi staff. Sharing the geometricized appearance of some Mossi doll figures, the head that crowns this staff is block-like and imposing, the proportions of its elements given over to a powerful abstraction. Beneath the sharply indented eye notch a precise ridge descends diagonally back to the base of the jaw, bisecting the front and rear sections of the face into stepped planes. A parabolic crest rises from the center of the head in representation of a braided coiffure, the shape of which is echoed in the large, curved ears. The banded neck, swelling slightly, leads down into the body of the shaft, at the juncture of which a small pair of symbolic breasts stand forth.

The frontal perspective of this staff gives little indication of the composition’s true form, setting up a surprising moment of transformation as one’s vantage point shifts to reveal the broad and expertly carved bust.

Late 19th or early 20th century
H: 25"

Merton Simpson Gallery, New York

Sotheby’s, November 1997

Private USA collection

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