African art > African mask > Gurunsi Mask
Gurunsi/Bwa vertical plank mask (N° 19053)
Gurunsi blade masks are famous in African art for their stylized zoomorphic symbolism. They are covered with geometric patterns usually contrasted with kaolin and black pigments obtained from gum tree pods and charcoal powder. This is more specifically a board mask of the Nunuma subgroup.
The features of different animals can be combined: buffalo, antelope, warthog, hyena, hornbill, snake and crocodile.
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Five angular beaks appear on the vertical board of this piece, animated with symbolic geometric motifs: the triangles allude to antelope hoof prints and the curved beaks symbolize the hornbill, associated with divination.
These masks were used for ritual dances and were worn by members of the village who were equipped with integral outfits made of vegetal fibers that covered the body.
The ritual was intended to bring fertility and prosperity to the village, provided it was performed correctly. These masks were also used in funeral ceremonies for notables, to celebrate the passing of initiatory ranks, or simply for entertainment.
Religiously, the Gurunsi believe in a higher being, Yi, who withdrew from the world after creating it and whose altar occupies the center of the village.
Yi sent, to represent him, the spirit Su, incarnated in all the masks and honored by an altar.
Among the Gurunsi, the Lela, Winiama, Nuna and Nunuma are the main mask sculptors. They influenced the style and meaning of the masks of their neighbors Mossi and Bwa.
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