TITLE: Baule Kplekple
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
DESCRIPTION: Kplekple Male Plank Mask
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.