The masks of Dwo

The masks possess an ontological category of the highest importance in the African tradition. In West Africa the mask is the most common representation of the occult and that which facilites communication between the living and the dead. They are not merely a secular representation, but rather perform an important social function in sacred and religious contexts.

The Kôro masks are a reincarnation of Dwo, the invisible deity of the Bwa and Bobo ethnic groups from Burkina Faso. They appear during the months before the rainy season. The bearers of the masks cover their entire bodies with leaves and plush.  Some of these masks are not brought out for years, and are invoked only when extraordinary circumstances arise. Secret societies and the leaders of the African tradition proudly and zealously preserve their system of beliefs and ancient mythology against external threats from the outside world. The Griot caste is closely linked to the secret society of the masks, since dance, music and musical instruments are the vehicles through which stories and sacred messages are transmitted.

 


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