TITLE: Dan Gunye Ge Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Dan
DESCRIPTION: Gunye Ge (Racing) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI003
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Spirit Invocation
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: burlap; cowrie shells; raffia fiber; iron bells; cotton batting; stitching; kaolin clay

The Dan people are a large ethnic group inhabiting Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. One important tradition among the Dan is the weekly foot race, held in the dry season. Racers wear masks like this one (gunye ge) to invoke bush spirits that will speed them along. Typically, a masked racer will chase an unmasked one and, if he catches him, gets to keep the mask. If not, the bush spirit did not favor him, and he must unmasked.  The unmasked runner, in turn, puts on his own mask and chases another unmasked competitor. The runner with the most wins at the end of the dry season is declared the victor.

For more on Dan masks, see Eberhard Fischer, Dan Forest Spirits: Masks in Dan Villages, AFRICAN ARTS, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 16-23 (1978).

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TITLE: Dan Kran Kaogle
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Kran (Dan)
DESCRIPTION: Gla Society Kaogle (Chimpanzee) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI010
MAKER: Unknown
FUNCTION: Entertainment; Secret Society; Social Control; War Preparation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; iron wire; leather straps

The Kran ethnic subgroup of the Dan people, and are also known as the We or Guere, living primarily in the Côte d’Ivoire.  The Gla secret society of the Kran people are charged with maintaining social control, including judicial functions, as well as officiating at harvest ceremonies and funerals.  The kaogle mask represents a chimpanzee spirit and invokes its strength and cunning, formerly to prepare for war and exercise social control. Today, its role is largely educational and for entertainment.

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TITLE: Duma Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Gabon
ETHNICITY: Duma
DESCRIPTION: Anthropomorphic face mask
CATALOG ID: AFGA004
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Funeral
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; natural pigment

The Duma (also called Adouma or Aduma) people of Gabon is a small ethnic group known for being expert boatwrights and merchants. They inhabit the south bank of the upper Ogooué River. They continue to practice their traditional animistic religion, using masks major social events, such as adult initiation rituals and funerals. Duma masks tend to have a flat or slightly rounded shape, with geometrical patterns and two or three colors.

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TITLE: Guro Zamble
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire
ETHNICITY: Guro
DESCRIPTION: Zamble Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI018
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Celebration; Entertainment; Funeral
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Guro zamble mask represents a mythical animal resembling a cross between an antelope and crocodile.  It forms part of the trio of sacred masks with the gu and zaouli. In the past, gu was often presented as the wife of zamble, but in modern rituals she is usually represented as the wife of zaouli, which would make her zamble‘s mother. All three masks are cult objects to which sacrifices are periodically made to bring prosperity to the family that owns them and to drive away evil spirits.  In the past, the zamble may have been a “witch-hunter,” but today they are danced for celebrations and as entertainment, and also at funerals and to honor ancestors.  In this latter context, zamble is especially important, because it is the only nature spirit caught and tamed by an ancestor of the Guro people.

For more on Guro masking traditions, see Eberhard Fischer, Guro (Prestel, 2008) or Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, Guro (5 Continents Editions, 2016).

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TITLE: Makonde Lipiko Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Tanzania
ETHNICITY: Makonde
DESCRIPTION: Lipiko Face Mask
CATALOG ID: AFTZ001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mapiko
USE: Adult Initiation; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

The Makonde people inhabit the bordering region of Tanzania and Mozambique. They are a matrilineal society divided into clans governed by a chief and council. The Makonde are known as some of the most expert mask carvers in Africa, with two kinds of masks prevalent in their society.  Most Makonde lipiko masks are helmet masks worn with a body mask depicting a pregnant woman. This mask is a rarer face mask, made and used primarily by the Makonde of Tanzania.  Like other lipiko masks, it is used primarily for the mapiko dance held at adult initiation rituals for boys and girls and at funerals. The masquerader channels the spirit of dead ancestors through the mask.  Face masks, unlike helmet masks, are worn by stilt dancers.  During initiation, boys and girls are both taught how to make the masks and perform them.  Women perform their initiation away from the males, who never see the masquerade.

For more on the Makonde mapiko ceremony, see Paolo Israel, In Step with the Times: Mapiko Masquerades of Mozambique (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press 2014)

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TITLE: Lega Muminia Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Democratic Republic of
ETHNICITY: Lega
DESCRIPTION: Muminia Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD014
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Bwami Society
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Secret Society; Status
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay

The Lega people of the Democratic Republic of Congo use masks in a very wide variety of ways, but primarily for initiation into adulthood and to confirm status. The Bwami Society exercises authority over many aspects of social and religious life, including initiation.  All Lega masks are therefore Bwami Society masks. Small masks (lukwakongo) are used for identification and worn on the body or are hung on a fence to represent children of the ancestors. Larger masks, such as this muminia mask, are worn on the face or top of the head. The word muminia means “necessary for initiation” and is worn by both the lowest grade members of the Bwami Society and the two highest ranks (Yananio and Kindi).

For more on Lega masking traditions, see Daniel Biebuyck, Lega Culture: Art, Initiation, and Moral Philosophy among a Central African People (University of California Press, 1973).

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TITLE: Kwele Ekuk Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Gabon
ETHNICITY: Kwele
DESCRIPTION: Ekuk Plank Mask
CATALOG ID: AFGA001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Be’ete Society
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Funeral: Protection; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay

The Kwele, also known as Kwese, people of Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo now live between the Dja and Ivindo rivers. Social control is exercised by the Be’ete (or Bwete) Secret Society, which uses masks to adult initiation rituals, funerals, and protection of the village from malicious spirits.  The masks embody protective bush spirits, with the antelope a dominant presence among them.  Kaolin clay is nearly always used in Kwele masks, because its white color has spiritual meaning to the Kwele.

This specific mask represents an ekuk, or forest spirit.

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TITLE: Dogon Kanaga
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Dogon
DESCRIPTION: Kanage Mask
CATALOG ID: AFML004
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Dama
FUNCTION: Funeral
AGE: Mid to late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; string

The Dogon people of Mali use a tremendous variety of masks, most of which center around funeral rites, known as Dama. Traditionally, the Awa Society controlled the use of masks, such as this kanaga.  The kanaga is used in funerals to usher the spirit of the dead from the village back to its proper place in the bush.  Along with the mask, the dancer wears a hood of plaited fiber to cover the back of the head, and a costume of black and red woven cloth embroidered and decorated with cowrie shells and beads.  The kanaga dancer also wears a pair of woven pants and a long skirt of black, red, and yellow plant fibers.

The mask represents a god, the crossbars representing arms and legs, as well as the arrangement of the world, with the upper bar representing the sky and the lower bar representing the earth.  As in other African masking traditions, the white color of the superstructure indicates the spirit world.

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TITLE: Ogoni Elu Mask
TYPE: body mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Nigeria
ETHNICITY: Ogoni
DESCRIPTION: Elu (Spirit) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFNG009
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Celebration; Funeral; Secret Society
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; cotton string; dried reeds

The Ogoni people have managed to maintain much of their precolonial culture, including their masquerading traditions.  Masks are used by the Ogoni for many purposes. Some are reserved for members of secret societies having varying social ranks.  Others are mainly for entertainment.  The elu mask is an old form of a spirit mask.  In many African societies, the color white is associated with the spirit world.

Too small to be worn on the face, the elu is instead attached to a conical cloth cap that covers the entire head of the dancer. The hinged jaw causes the mask’s mouth to open and close during the dance with a clicking sound. Such masks are worn by members of secret men’s societies during festivals and at funerals of important members of the society.

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TITLE: Bamana Chi Wara
TYPE: crown mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bamana (Bambara)
DESCRIPTION: Chi Wara Segu Crest
CATALOG ID: AFML012
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Initiation; Social Control; Status
AGE: Late 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: brass plating; animal hair; leather; dyed cotton pompoms; cotton string

The Bamana people, sometimes called Bambara, are one of the largest ethnic groups in Mali. They have six major secret societies of different levels of prestige that conduct adult initiation rituals. Initiates are taught survival skills, social customs, and religious principles. The Chi Wara Society dances using crest masks only and teaches social values and agricultural techniques.

The Chi Wara itself typically takes the form of a roan antelope crossed with a human. The character itself is supposed to represent a culture hero born of the sky goddess (Mousso Koroni) and an earth god in the shape of a cobra. The Chi Wara taught the Bamana to sow and harvest crops.

There are four major kinds of Chi Wara: the Bougouni Southern; the Segu Northern; the Bamako Northern; and the Sikasso. This specific mask represents the third style of Chi Wara, the Bamako from the northern region, and depicts a male.

The Chi Wara is danced in male and female pairs, with each wearing a full suit of raffia fiber and the crest mounted on a basket (as here) that sits atop the dancer’s head. The male dancer leads, leaping like an antelope and scratching the ground with a staff to illustrate the teaching of agriculture. The female follows behind and fans the male to spread his powers to the village.

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