Warlike Guere/We mask

Ivory Coast, West Africa
Ivory Coast, West Africa

Q:  Here’s a wooden mask that my father acquired in Ivory Coast somewhere around 1975. It’s probably from the Guiglo region, in the southwest of the country. He bought it from someone there, and I’m very curious about its originality and possibly if you know anything more about its function or meaning. As a frequent visitor of your website and mask enthusiast/collector I was hoping you might be able to tell me something more about it!   Sven, 781

A: The Guere people (also called the We) are the dominant ethnic group in that area. The bulging eyes and thick, decorative attachments can be readily identified. These can also include shells, bells, nails and feathers which were thought to reinforce the power of the masks. All of this accounts for their identification as war masks but, according to some writers, they are worn primarily during funerals and, in a detective capacity, to single out guilty persons. Many of the these powerful masks are sold to tourists and collectors, as was this one.  B

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