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Yorouba Masks (Masks)

Saturday 26 September 2009 by Florence

The word “Yoruba” describes at the same time a language and a tribe living between Nigeria and Benin in a region covered by forests and savannahs. Their story can be traced from the beginning of the 16th century with the Ife civilisation. Following the Ife’s downfall a number of kingdoms, like the ones of Ijebu (1500-1750) and Oyo (1680-1830) rose to prominence. The Oyo were directed by an emperor, called Alafin, who served as a supreme judge. His power was offset by a council of seven chiefs, each one at the head of a non royal family. Almost from the beginning the Oyo extended their territory thanks to their cavalry, but in the 18th and 19th century they were almost completely decimated. At the end of the 19th century they had a reversal of fortunes with the arrival of the European colonialists, who supported and helped them raise to power once again. Today they are still an integral part of the political structure of the Yoruba.

Ciwara Masks (Masks)

Thursday 24 September 2009 by Florence

The two millions two hundred and fifty thousands of Bamana, also called Bambara, are the most important ethnic of Mali. They live principally from farming with a little bit of rearing in the north part of their territory. Their religious and social life is again often determined by six male initiation societies. Each stage of initiation is accompanied by the use of a certain mask types, most of them zoomorphic. Among the best known of these is the antelope headdress of the fifth society, ciwara (which means “head of a wild beast”), whose members performed ritual dances intended to ensure the fertility of the fields.

Gourounsi Masks (Masks)

Thursday 24 September 2009 by Florence

The Nuna, Lela, Nunuma and Winiama tribes who live in the region between the Red and Black Volta in Burkina Faso have been regrouped under the name of Gurunsi by their neighbours because they speak the language gur. The name has become established despite the fact that the ethnic groups themselves consider it pejorative.

Dan Masks (Masks)

Thursday 24 September 2009 by Florence

The Dan (also named Yacouba) are a farming people who inhabit the hinterland of western Ivory Coast and Liberia. They have a great number of masked figures who represent spirits of the bush, and fulfill a variety of social, political, and religious functions. Eleven different types of Dan masks can be distinguished by formal criteria.

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