African Art/Western Art


Mblo Portrait Mask Arriving

NGUESSAN: This mask is from my village, Kami. It was carved [in the late 1940s] by Koffi Alany, the son of the woman it represents. The bird is a green pigeon, just a decoration to make it beautiful. A very good dancer wore it. These masks are not worn by just anybody--only the best dancers of the village. Mblo is a dance of celebration. For us, some funerals are a kind of holiday--funerals of old people who achieved a lot in their lives and who often participated in the dance.

On the forked branch is a lokoswue shrine. Each family head can have one, in the courtyard or behind the house in the street. In the pot there will be roots or leaves in water or palm wine. The shrine protects the family. Before a voyage, when you are sick or before going to a large event, you can wash yourself with the liquid or drink it for protection.

VOGEL: This is based on a photograph I took in Kami in 1972. It recreates the moment when the masked dancer is hidden as he approaches the audience. Four men hold up large cloths to conceal the mask, heightening the anticipation and the dramatic effect when they drop the cloths and the costumed mask dances forth. It is typical of Baule mask dances to feel that the most interesting masks are likely to leave suddenly and be difficult to see well.

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