TITLE: Baule Mblo
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Mblo (portrait) mask with chief on head
CATALOG ID: AFCI024
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mblo Celebration
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baule people of Côte d’Ivoire use many kinds of cultural masks and are known for the artistry and skill of their carvers. The Mblo celebration serves primarily as entertainment and the conferring of social status on certain honored individuals.  At the end of the Mblo celebration, portrait masks are danced individually in a series of increasing complexity. Each mask represents an honored villager.  This specific mask represents a chief, as indicated by the status symbol atop the head.

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TITLE: Baule Klolo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Klolo (Elephant) Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI014
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Purification; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1970s-1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay

Before major festivals, the Baule people sometimes dance masks representing potent animal spirits to purify the village. This mask represents the revered elephant and is known as klolo, or sometimes lébé.  The abstraction of this specific elephant mask is striking and greater than usual among its type.  It is likely that this mask is used in much the same way as the zi mask of the southern (Dje) Guro people, to which the klolo bears a strong resemblance. The zi mask represents a powerful spirit tamed by the village that is used to purify the village of harmful spirits, especially witchcraft.

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TITLE: Baule Bo Nun Amuin
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Bo Nun Amuin Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI016
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Funeral; Protection; Social Control; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment

The Baule are a relatively large ethnic group inhabiting the eastern Côte d’Ivoire and parts of Ghana. They have a variety of masking traditions, but their most religiously important is the bo nun amuin. Bo nun amuin, translated roughly “god risen from the bush,” are sacred masks worn only by men. They channel powerful bush spirits and as such are used at funerals of village notables, to protect the village from external threats, and to instill discipline and punishment on violators of customs, especially women. They are danced to the sound of a loud bull-roarer, to warn women and children not to watch.

In the past, bo nun amuin were kept in shrines outside of the village, but now are brought to bush shrines on the day before the dance. The men formerly appear naked before the masks to assure the spirit of their masculinity, but today they simply drop their pants when they approach the masks. Before crossing the shrine’s threshold palm wine or gin will be poured over it, and then spat onto the mask as an offering to the mask spirit. Before the 1970’s, war prisoners were sacrificed to the spirit, but today animals such as dogs or chickens are used.  The society eats the sacrificial meat, and then the heart and liver of the animal is spat on the mask as an offering. The dancer is bathed and puts on protective amulets, blade shaped bark around his hands and knees, and rattles on his feet. The society next evokes the spirit by singing, and the mask can then leave the shrine for the dance. After the dance, the men shout “k buno,” “go back to the bush,” to usher the potentially dangerous spirit out of the village.

Bo nun amuin masks have varied forms, but they tend to assume the form of a mythological beast combining attributes of an antelope and leopard, sometimes with anthropomorphic features as well. The resemblance to the kponyungo or “fire spitter” funerary mask of their Senufo neighbors is sometimes striking. This specific mask has the relatively unusual shape of an abstract, elongated warthog.

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TITLE: Baule Gbagba
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Gbagba Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI013
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mblo Dance Drama
AGE: 1988
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: lacquer

The Baule Mblo ceremony combines dramatic scenes and individual dances and is possibly the most ancient Baule masking tradition. The gbagba dancer participating in Mblo wears a mask flatteringly portraying a respected member of the community and skilled dancer, usually (as here) female. The person portrayed is expected to accompany the masquerader in dance. The dark and shining skin indicates health. The intricately carved and elaborate hairstyle, teeth filed to sharp points, and traditional facial scarification represent the Baule version of ideal beauty. The dance is performed to the music of drummers and singers. To avoid insulting the person portrayed, only the most practiced dancers may wear a gbagba, and gbagba masks are stored out of sight when not in use.

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TITLE: Baule Kplekple
TYPE: plank mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Kplekple Male Plank Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI008
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Goli Society
FUNCTION: agricultural; celebration; entertainment; funeral; secret society; spirit invocation
AGE: ca. 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin clay; pigment

The Baule people of Côte d’Ivoire use many kinds of cultural masks and are known for the artistry and skill of their carvers. Several mask types are used in the Goli Festival, a day-long harvest celebration with music and feasting, where the masked dancers are members of the Goli Society and serve the primary function of entertainment. This mask is danced at the beginning of the Goli Festival by young boys. It is also worn at funerals to honor important personages in the village, and during droughts and famines to pray for rain and abundant harvests.

The kplekple dancers perform in pairs, usually with one male (primarily black) and one female (primarily red) mask. This mask is male. Kplekple dancers wear a suit of plant fiber that covers the entire body, an animal pelt on the back, and metal anklets that jingle as the dancer moves. The dance itself progresses from wild and aggressive, mimicking the putative behavior of bush spirits and young tribe members, to more sedate, mimicking the transition to maturity and civilization.

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TITLE: Baule Ram
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
ETHNICITY: Baule
DESCRIPTION: Kuamanbo (Ram) Helmet Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCI009
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Goli Festival
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; pigment

The Baule people of Côte d’Ivoire use many kinds of cultural masks and are known for the artistry and skill of their carvers. Several mask types are used in the Goli Festival, a day-long harvest celebration with music and feasting, where the masks are used for entertainment. This mask, worn atop the head, is also used to invoke the kuamanbo, a ram spirit that blesses the crops.

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