Every second year, there is a gathering of villagers each having their own tradition and sets of masks. Dedougou, a small city located in the west of Burkina Faso, hosts the largest international art and mask festival. In 2016, its 20th anniversary, you could see masks from around 50 different villages all over Burkina Faso, Senegal, Togo, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, and Benin.
For thousand of years there have been animist belief around in West Africa, in which masks play a central role, especially for remembrance rituals symbolizing the rhythm of life. They are made from textile, straw, wood and leaves for the worship of spirits and ancestors. According to traditional beliefs, during the ceremony, the frantic music and dancing transform the entranced mask wearer into a spirit which communicates with ancestors. A wise man or translator sometimes accompanies the wearer of the mask during the ritual, helping to interpret the ancestors’ message.