Grebo War Mask Large

Grebo War Mask Large


The Grebo are found on the coast of Eastern Liberia and neighboring forestlands. They are a small ethnic group whose name translates to “leaping monkey people.” This refers to their migration from the Sahara region to Liberia. They are known to be fierce warriors, which is apparent in the construction of their mask work. Measuring up to a meter in height, these flat war masks feature one or more rows of three dimensional tubular eyes. Not only used during battle, these masks also make appearances at dances held beforehand, as well as at the funerals of fallen warriors.

These masks are not the only kind that the Grebo make. There are also tall, flat masks with large faces characterized by painted “buffalo horns” located at the top, as well as masks which represent the female ideal. These feature slitted eyes and a gentle expression. Both of these masks are used during initiation rites and festive occasions.  

Contemporarily, Grebo masks are most commonly known for their influence on Pablo Picasso’s work. Picasso is accredited (along with Georges Braque) with the creation of cubism, a style of art which depicts subjects in 2D, combining multiple angles of perspective into one image. One of Picasso’s most well known works is Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a painting of five naked women with angular bodies and faces. The faces of these women were inspired by a Grebo mask purchased by Picasso in the early 1900s and served as inspiration to him as he and Braque developed Cubism. 

24" x 9"