BAULE Double Face Mask
DIMENSIONS: H: 11.45 x W: 7.91 x L: 4.034 in.
Late 19th Century
Step into the profound world of the Baule double face mask, a relic of the late 19th century that transcends mere artistry. This mask is more than a visual feast; it encapsulates the embodiment of dual power, where the wearer or dancer becomes a conduit for the convergence of age, wisdom, and serenity. Crafted from wood and standing at a dimension of H: 11.45 x W: 7.91 x L: 4.034 inches, this artifact is a testament to the intricate craftsmanship of its creators.
At its core, the Baule double face mask signifies the power vested in twins who share a common soul. This duality bestows upon the wearer a heightened ability to perceive the spirit world of their ancestors. It is a symbolic celebration of the union between the sun and the moon, or the auspicious birth of twins—a sign of great fortune. The mask, with its refined features, radiates beauty and age, embodying the essence of the gba gba dance.
The gba gba dance, performed exclusively by men, takes center stage during the funerals of women in the harvest season. It is a vibrant ode to beauty and age, and this double face mask, with its unique design, amplifies the ceremonial significance. Its serene countenance belies the underlying power it holds—the marriage of the sun and the moon manifesting in wisdom, protection, and ancestral experience.
Moving beyond the gba gba, the Baule double face mask finds its place in two other dances: the bonu amuen and the goli. The bonu amuen serves as a guardian, shielding the village from external threats. Its imposing wooden helmet, resembling a buffalo or antelope, is adorned with metal ankle bracelets and a raffia costume. The mask’s muzzle, complete with teeth, symbolizes the ferocious animal defending the community. In addition, it imposes a disciplined code upon women and surfaces during commemorations of notable deaths.
The goli, with its distinctive “lunar” shape crowned by two horns, was assimilated from the Wan people post-1900. Symbolizing peace and joy, the goli features prominently in celebrations involving singing, dancing, and the consumption of palm wine. Its role extends to processions preceding groups of young adolescent dancers during new harvests, visits by dignitaries, and the funerals of esteemed figures.
The Baule people, known for their unique cultural expressions, extend their artistic prowess beyond masks. Boxes designed for the mouse oracle, a method involving a live mouse disturbing sticks to provide auguries, showcase the Baule’s distinctive approach. Carvers in the Baule community are versatile, producing not only masks but also heddle pulleys, combs, hairpins, and gong mallets, each piece reflecting the rich tapestry of their artistic heritage.
In exploring this Baule double face mask, one is invited to unravel the layers of symbolism, ritual, and artistic mastery woven into its form. It stands as a testament to the Baule people’s ability to transcend the tangible and offer a glimpse into the spiritual dimensions of their culture, a heritage preserved in the contours of this captivating artifact.