Africa

Baule mask from West Africa

The Baule were a tribe that originated in the present day Ivory Coast area in Africa many years ago.  The Baule assimilated a number of their neighbors’ masquerade forms: a naturalistic face mask, a horned helmet mask, and a flat circular mask called kple kple. The last of these, a male mask of junior rank, is one of several paired works that would perform sequentially in Goli society entertainments or funerals. It impersonates an unruly nature spirit that is considered to be both frightening and amusing. The flat, disk-shaped face with ringed eyes and rectangular mouth is surmounted by ears and large curving horns. The bold red coloring has contrasting touches of white, while the complementary female mask would be painted black.
The people who made the mask were either farmers or blacksmiths, depending on the region. The way they made it was to hand carve the mask out of wood with a non-blunt tool. The people that would wear the masks would be the highest ranked individuals in the tribe to be not under spirit control during funerals, and/or agricultural honorary ceremonies.
Photo is from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

2 Comments

  • Eric

    Sorry Bob this is very misleading.
    The Baule didn’t ‘disappear’, they are still alive, almost 4 million live in the Ivory Coast. And they are still making masks for traditional use.

    Europeans did not ‘steal the mask idea for theatre’ from Africa or from anywhere else –
    All cultures around the world have used masks since prehistoric times, European use of masks in theatre and even for pagan traditions pre-dates any European visiting Africa by over a thousand years.

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