REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso (Rep. of Upper Volta)
YEAR PRINTED: 1960
VALUE: 50 centimes

This stamp is one of a series celebrating the masks of Bwa and Gurunsi people issued by the Republic of Upper Volta (modern Burkina Faso) when it was a self-governing French colony. This mask represents a bush spirit in the form of an antelope.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso (Rep. of Upper Volta)
YEAR PRINTED: 1960
VALUE: 40 centimes

This stamp is one of a series celebrating the masks of Bwa and Gurunsi people issued by the Republic of Upper Volta (modern Burkina Faso) when it was a self-governing French colony. This mask represents a bush spirit in the form of an antelope.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso (Rep. of Upper Volta)
YEAR PRINTED: 1960
VALUE: 30 centimes

This stamp is one of a series celebrating the masks of Bwa and Gurunsi people issued by the Republic of Upper Volta (modern Burkina Faso) when it was a self-governing French colony. This mask represents a bush spirit in the form of an antelope.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso (Rep. of Upper Volta)
YEAR PRINTED: 1960
VALUE: 4 francs

This stamp is one of a series celebrating the masks of Bwa and Gurunsi people issued by the Republic of Upper Volta (modern Burkina Faso) when it was a self-governing French colony. This mask represents a bush spirit in the form of a warthog.

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TITLE: Winiama Leprosy Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Winiama
DESCRIPTION: Protection Mask Representing a Leper
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Protection & Purification; Secret Society
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin

The Winiama people are a small ethnic group inhabiting Burkina Faso. They share with their neighboring peoples, the Nuna, a highly geometrical masking style. The Winiama believe in a supreme creator god, who can manifest as Su, a sacred mask. Through masked rituals, Su‘s power can be invoked to protect the village, promote fertility, honor the dead, or inflict harm on enemies.

Some masks, such as this one, can be worn only by the highest ranking members of a secret mask society. It would have been worn with a raffia fiber collar and full body suit. The mask is intended to protect the village from the disease of leprosy. The disease was previously thought to be caused by a curse cast by a sorcerer, or by some wrongdoing of the afflicted person.

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TITLE: Nuna Chameleon Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Chameleon Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment; dyed plant fibers

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Bobo Fing Antelope Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Bobo Fing
DESCRIPTION: Antelope Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 2000-2009
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment

The Bobo Fing are a Mande-speaking ethnic group inhabit farming communities in Burkina Faso. They share with their neighbors, the Bwa, Nuna, Nunuma, and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style. Although their masks appear similar, the Bobo Fing are not closely related to these groups, who speak a different family of languages.

Masks such as this one are used to celebrate many important village events, including funerals, the initiation of boys into adulthood and the purification of the region to ensure good rainfall and fruitful crops at planting time. Masked dances erase human evils by restoring a connection to and balance with the sun, rain, and earth. The masks typically represent protective bush spirits such as the warthog, buffalo, fish, antelope, serpent, or hawk. All such masks incarnate the spirits of fertility, fecundity, and growth. The wearer of the mask is considered to embody the sacred spirit during the masquerade.

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TITLE: Nuna Antelope Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Antelope Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment; dyed plant fibers

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Nuna Hornbill Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Nuna
DESCRIPTION: Hornbill Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Divination; Entertainment; Funeral; Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Nuna and related Nunuma people inhabit Burkina Faso and share with their neighbors, the Bwa and Winiama peoples, a highly geometrical masking style.  There are two major types of masks used by the Nuna peoples. Sacred masks (wankr) are said to have descended from the sky and are danced with weapons in their hands in important ceremonies only.  When not being worn, they are used as sacrificial altars. Revealed masks dance only on ritual occasions.

Other masks (wamu), such as this one, are created by villagers for specific purposes.  Animal masks are danced in mimicry of the animal itself.  Unlike wankr dancers, wamu dancers carry only whips and are mainly used for entertainment and funerals.

All masks may be used for spirit invocation, boys initiation ceremonies, village purification, or divination.

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TITLE: Bwa Nwantantay
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Burkina Faso
ETHNICITY: Bwa
DESCRIPTION: Nwantantay Plank Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Agricultural; Funeral
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Bwa people inhabit the Black Volta River region of Burkina Faso. Their masks are used by secret societies in adult initiation rituals, to celebrate important agricultural events, and to escort the souls of the dead to the next world. Bwa masks have a distinctive look, with geometric patterns predominating, and large concentric circles for eyes, to represent the vigilance of the spirit represented by the mask (reminiscent of the owl). The geometric striations are symbolic representations of important abstract moral principles.

Bwa plank masks such as this one are frequently extraordinarily large and heavy. This mask is nearly six feet (1.8 meters) tall. The masquerader typically wears a suit of thick raffia fiber, covering the entire body in a bushy heap.  Unlike a secret society masks, the Bwa masks are owned by specific families and can be danced by anyone.

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