This helmet was the first object I saw as I entered the Eiteljorg Suite
of African and Oceanic Art. In addition to his renowned
collection of Western and Native American Art, Eiteljorg and his
wife also developed one of the "most celebrated collections of African
art in America." A portion of this wing at the IMA has been devoted
to his collection.
It had been many years since I saw the collection and I was
stunned by its variety, beauty, and craftsmanship.
I first became aware of African art when I learned in my art history
classes that Picasso was influenced by tribal masks in
his development of his own artwork. I think it was one of the first
instances that I began to consider how wonderful it is
to have such diversity of expression in the world.
Seeing this collection again reinforced that impression.
I noticed that both the top mask and the one above are topped by birds.
The information I could find about birds in ceremonial pieces
stated that they are often used as a transitional beings, one that can travel
between both the spiritual and earthly worlds.