Gag, Brazil, 19th century, Iron.
Courtesy of Museu Afro Brasil, São Paulo.

The iron masks are a by-product of plantation colonialism. The plate in front of the mouth is to prevent the slaves from eating the sugar cane during the harvest. As in Haiti, sugar was the key source of European wealth in Bahia. At a later stage, coffee and cocoa took on greater importance. Such objects, which bear witness to the dark side of modernism, are usually not to be found in European museum collections.