A group of Tasso men - a secret society - Imperri - Sherbro, W.C. Africa

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155 x 111 mm. Showing a group of four Tasso men of the Poro secret society. Their function and appearance are well described: 'Next in power to the chiefs in the great Poro institution come the heads of the Poro, called the Tassos. Each big chief of a town has his own Tasso man, who, upon very important occasions, attends with his chief. When I photographed the four Tassos ..., it was at the conclusion of a very great and unusual meeting, the installation of a chief, after several years of interregnum. The four Tassos formed part of the chief's bodyguard, and took a prominent part in the ceremony. It is necessary to observe carefully the costumes worn by these men, more particularly their enormous head-gear, which is about three feet in height. It is a great weight, and is consequently removed whenever the men are not actively engaged. These head-dresses are erected on a foundation of plaited cane. The human skulls and the thigh-bones immediately above the part fitting the head are those of defunct Tassos, which can only be renewed from other departed members of the order. The whole is surmounted by a gigantic bouquet of feathers, gathered from all kinds of birds, these bouquets being quite three feet in diameter. The dress of these men is of the usual barbaric description, made up of a network over the body, from which hang various skins of animals, bunches of fibres from the waist forming a short skirt; while attached to the knees are several pieces of hollowed native iron, from which depend rings of similar metal, that jingle as the men move about, making a considerable noise.' (Alldridge, T.J. (1901), 'The Sherbo and its hinterland', London: Macmillan and Company, pp.131-2). Photograph taken in the 1890s.

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