JANUS or JANIFORM HEADS and FIGURES

TOMA
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 TOMA
Fetish 10

 

MENDE
Janus Head 7

LOBI
Figure 112

MENDE
Mask 49

 HEMBA
Couple 9

HEMBA
Couples

PENDE
Couple 1
 

ORON
Couple 2



 EJAGHAM
Headdresses

FANG
Helmet Masks

 

 EJAGHAM
Heads

 

SONGYE
Head 3

  

BAMANA
Puppet 1

BAMANA
Puppet 2

 

BAMANA
Puppet 3

 

BAMANA
Janus Figure 1

Photographs © Tim Hamill

Our terms for these pieces ( Janus or Janiform heads, headdresses and figures ) are named after the Roman god Janus. There are some common themes but no direct connection between Roman mythology and African beliefs.

The first of January was dedicated by the Romans to their God of Gates and Doors, Janus. he is commonly depicted with two faces...one regarding what is behind and the other looking toward what lies ahead. Thus, Janus is representative of contemplation on the happenings of an old year while looking forward to the new. Some sources claim that Janus was characterized in such a peculiar fashion due to the notion that doors and gates look in two directions. Therefore, the God could look both backward and forward at the same time. Originally, Janus was portrayed with one bearded face and the other clean-shaven, which may have symbolized the moon and the sun, or age and youth. Later, he is most often shown with beards on both faces and frequently holds a key in his right hand. Very early statues of Janus (around the Second Century B.C.) depict him with four faces. In his role as the Guardian of Exits and Entrances, Janus was also believed to represent beginnings. The explanation for this belief being that one must emerge through a door or gate in order to enter into a new place.

The opposing sides of African janiform objects sometimes represent male and female faces. In Ejagham heads the male side was normally stained a dark color while portions of the female side were left the natural lighter color of the antelope skin. A figure with two faces was also often believed to be doubly powerful or protective, as with many fetishes or reliquary guardians.

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