Mossi Mask


Burkina Faso

The Mossi are the largest ethnic group living in Burkina Faso. As like the Bobo tribe, the Mossi tribe consists of farmers. Since they live in a region of dry savannas where harvests depend on rainfall, the Mossi organized a series of purification rituals in order to reconcile with nature. Since it is proper to make compensation for the errors of humankind, masks have the 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 fiber and wood carved into forms which represent the protective spirits of the village: warthog, male buffalo, rooster, toucan, fish, antelope, serpent, and hawk. All of them incarnate the forces of fertility, fecundity, and growth. Each family would refer to a myth explaining the mask’s origin. Most of these myths were associated with a catastrophe that had brought a sacred animal, or even a god, to make a gift of a mask to an ancestor. The power of mask would allow the restoration of order within the clan and finally, at the ancestor’s death the mask would become the material structure of his soul.

This mask is similar to the typical Mossi concave-face mask known as Yatenga. These masks made their appearance several times during the course of the year: they would escort the dead, thus helping them to join the world beyond. They control the sacrifices offered at the beginning of the rainy season, which were to insure the community a good millet crop and harvest of wild fruits. When not in use, these masks remained on the family shrine, where they received prayers and sacrifices for those members of the family who were in need, and they aided communication with the ancestors.


Height : 43″ (109.2cm)