The Gere (also known as We, Kran, and Wobe), live between the Dan and coastal peoples in West Africa, and perform a wide variety of masquerades.  These particular masks serve as a tool to maintain social order. Dancer and warrior masks similar to the two shown here are covered in patina and have wide, curving foreheads which symbolize wisdom and intelligence.  The masks would be performed for ceremony, boys circumcision, and to settle public disputes.  Zoomorphic features of wild animals such as forest buffaloes and warthogs are usually present.  Also visible are In its raffia beard (upper mask), tubular eyes, broad, triangular nose with prominent nostrils, and arched tusks or horns at either side of the head – all lending to its ability to evoke fear.  An open mouth reflects the importance of communication in the small, egalitarian society. The mask would be worn with voluminous skirts made of palm fibers and leaves.  Panels of fur or leather with a fringe of cartridges would reflect an elevated social status to bard, or assistant, of a great mask. Used in conjunction with bells, feathers, and nails, they are thought to reinforce the mask’s power.  Although visibly ferocious, the masks are also used primarily during funerals, in addition to purposes mentioned above, and are laden with the ability to detect guilty individuals. 

 

Source:

Blackmun-Visona, Monica, et. al. A History of Art in Africa. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson: Prentice Hall, 2008.

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