Secret Language of Masks from West Africa
People needed masks from the earliest age to make hunting successful or for a hunter to approach the prey unnoticed. In Africa masks are present in hunting and farming societies. A reason for creating a mask is deep human urge to conquer the boundaries the nature imposed, the boundaries of a man’s individuality.
Masks of Western Africa
In the area of savanna there are several societies: Bambara, Dogon, Bobo, Lobi and Senufo. In these societies mask has a significant role in the lives of individuals and communities. Islam has a significant impact on the style of some nations. Regardless of the strong influence of Islam, the nations: Bambara, Dogon, Mossi, Bobo and Senufo preserved beliefs, folk and traditional arts.
Dogon are engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding and partially hunting. Central place in Dogon’s religious ceremonies take ritual masks. In these ceremonies they use 8o different types of masks. Dogon masks are a sign of a complex consisting of several elements. Masks have a two part composition: the part of mask that covers the face and the part that goes vertically. Dogon style features a rectangular forms. Dogon masks are, in principle, anthropomorphic, supplemented by features of different animals (antelopes, hyenas, monkeys). The most common form of the mask Kanaga. It is believed that it is the symbol of a crocodile on which back, according to a myth, the Dogon crossed Niger during their escape from the “Earth Mande“.
Bobo people live in Burkina Faso and Mali. Their main occupations are farming, hunting, fishing, and partially animal husbandry. Their masks can be divided into three groups: zoomorphic, zooanthropomorphic, and anthropomorphic. Zoomorphic masks are representations of a bull or ram, rare birds. Zooantrophomorphic masks have face in a form of flat disk. Anthropomorphic masks have a flat face with protruding forehead and a thin nose.
Bambara people live in Mali. They belong to the Mandingo group and speak the language mande. In style Bambara, masks have a special place. They are made of wood and are stylized antelope heads. It is a symbol of the mythical ancestor Chi-Wara.
Senufo inhabit the border region between the savanna and moist tropical forests of Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Senufo make masks of wood and bronze. By the way of wearing, the masks can be divided into the mask-helmets worn on the head and masks that are worn on the face. Masks can be zoomorphic and anthropomorphic. Among the most famous anthropomorphic masks are masks Kpelie.
In the southeastern areas inhabited by Mossi masking tradition is not known. Mossi make two kinds of wooden masks: male and female. On the male mask’s head is a plate that is decorated with various ornaments, painted red, white and black. Female mask has, in addition to plates, the female statue, which is partly resting on the head cover, and partly to the plate.