Bobo (Bobo-Fing)

Burkina Faso, Mali

The Bobo people number 130,000 and live in eastern Burkina Faso, and in Mali. The first man created was a blacksmith. Dwo, a son of the Wuro was responsible for helping humankind. The blacksmiths were the priests of Dwo worship. Dwo was the intermediary between humankind and the creator; masks are the mainstay of tradition and their meaning was revealed to young boys during their initiation period. Living in a region of dry savannas where harvests depend on rainfall, the Bobo instituted a series of purification rituals in order to reconcile themselves with nature.

Masks have an essential function of erasing evil and reinstating the God-given balance between sun, earth, and rain. At the end of the dry season and before the work of cultivation begins, purification ceremonies take place, using masks of leaves, of fiber and wood, which may represent Dwo or protective spirits: warthog, male buffalo with flat horns, rooster with its crest standing perpendicular to its face, toucan, fish, antelope, serpent, and hawk. All of them incarnate the forces of fertility, fecundity, and growth. The masks symbolize animals or spirits and are worn during ceremonies associated with new crops, initiations and funerals. Among the Bobo, the sacredness of the mask derives from the fact that the divinity is considered to be present in the mask and, through it to be acting. The wearer is depersonalized to the advantage of the mask that he animates. To be a “mask”, man had to erase himself, that is to say, cease to be himself, shed his individuality. The Bobo also cast bronze pendants and statues.

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Fine Tribal & Modern Art Gallery