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BoBo Bird Ceremonial Mask

wood mask

Mali Bobo

Ritual, Reliquary, Spiritual

Burkina Faso


Early 19th Century

The Bwa or Bobo produce several different kinds of masks, including leaf masks dedicated to the god named Dwo, and wooden masks such as those dedicated to the God Lanle. The wooden masks often represent animals, this being that of a bird represents the spirit Lanle. It is covered with graphic patterns that represent the religious laws that people in the villages must obey if they are to receive God’s blessings. These well-known patterns are not decorative, they are graphic patterns in a system of writing that can be read by anyone in the community who has been initiated. They include brown-and-light checkerboards, that look like a target, zig-zag pattern that represent the path of the ancestors, X patterns, and crescents.

These extraordinary masks are used in a variety of different contexts. They appear at funerals of senior elders both male and female. They appear at initiation when young men and women are taught the meanings of the masks and the importance of the spirits as they enter the adult village society.

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