African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Bwa mask
Bwa mask with horizontal blade (N° 19998)
Tribal art and the diversity of Bwa masks
This large Bwa plank mask, of the hawk-mask category but frequently called a butterfly mask, has open wings on which triangular motifs and circles are carved in the wood. Each pattern is a symbol, often relating to clan myths. The two-tone patina is composed of kaolin, a brown coating, and red ochre on the reverse.
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Bwa masks have borrowed many elements from the Bwa's neighbors, the Gurunsi, Bobo and Mossi.
The Bwa are a population established on both sides of the Black Volta in Burkina Faso and Mali. They are divided into three endogamous castes: blacksmiths, griots and farmers. The Bwa believe in a god Difini, creator of the world, who later abandoned it to his son Do. Do, whose emblem is an iron rhomb named alive, is supposed to intervene during funerals and agrarian rites. Leaf masks are made by the villagers, only the Bwa of the south, the niegue, produce wooden masks often zoomorphic, and the famous board masks, abstract, representing the spirits of nature.
Ref: "The Bird in West African Art" ed. Sepia; "Animal Masks of Black Africa" ed. Sepia
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