Plank (Blade) Mask

H. 67 x W. 12 in.

Wood, Pigment ca. 20th century

The Bwa mask, also known as the Plank mask, represents numerous spirit characters that appear in the myths of Bwa peoples families and clans. Bwa wooden masks are associated with oral histories taught to young initiates and inscribed upon their bodies. These masks are believed to embody supernatural forces that act on behalf of the families that use them. The iconography depicted on the masks is carefully explained to the artist/maker by clan elders. These graphic elements are not solely drawn upon for their aesthetic qualities but are also symbolic. The checkerboard pattern of white and black refers to both the animal skins that are used to sit on, the white represents the clean fresh hides assigned to youths and the black suggests the darkened skins owned by the elders. Less literally, the juxtaposition of the white and black squares suggests the separation of good from evil and light from dark. When the mask is used in performances such as funerals and agricultural festivities, the masks are meant to embody nature or ancestor spirits. Similarly, they dance at initiation rituals to help introduce young children to the responsibilities of adulthood.


 Art of the Upper Volta Rivers

Speaking of Objects

Humanties, Art-Africa

Great News! You can now TEXT-TO-DONATE!

Text the code “DUGIVE” to 44-321