About this artwork
The size and weight of this butterfly-shaped mask required great strength and skill from its performer. Worn with a costume of long raffia fibers, Bwa masks of different types typically appear in the dry season at community events, such as men’s and women’s initiations, annual renewal ceremonies, burials, and market days.
The geometric patterns on this mask’s surface have been interpreted in different ways in accordance with a viewer’s depth of knowledge. The deeply incised concentric circles can be read as eyes or as rippling pools of water around which butterflies appear in the spring. The hooked nose-like protrusion above the mouth-like opening has been described as a reference to the circumcised penis of a newly initiated boy, and also as the beak of the hornbill, a bird that the Bwa associate with magical powers.
Currently Off View
- Arts of Africa
- Plank Mask
- Burkina Faso
- Wood and pigment
- 52.1 × 238.8 × 26.7 cm (20 1/2 × 94 × 10 1/2 in.)
- Charles H. and Mary F. Worcester Collection Fund