TITLE: Bozo Fish Puppet Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Mali
ETHNICITY: Bozo
DESCRIPTION: Sogo Ba Fish Puppet Crest Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Sogo Ba
FUNCTION: Entertainment; Social Status
AGE: early 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; cloth; hardware

The Bozo people of Mali inhabit the area along the Niger River and live predominantly by fishing. Many have been converted to Islam, but they nonetheless maintain animist beliefs and masking traditions today. Unlike other west and central African peoples, however, the Bozo do not use masks for important spiritual functions so much as for entertainment.  Masks and associated puppets (sometimes, the two are combined) entertain the village and raise the dancer’s social status through demonstrations of skill in mask making and dancing. The Sogo Ba ceremony is a masquerade of puppets danced by groups of young men who tell stories to music for the education and entertainment of the public. Fish puppet masks are especially popular with the Bozo, because fishing is crucial to the Bozo economy.