Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Mali
The most important mask among the Nafara, a southern Senufo group, is the KAGBA, danced by a single
performer. There is also a larger version called the NASOLO , which requires two dancers to move it. These
zoomorphic mask figures consist of a tent like structure of reeds, covered with ornamentally painted mats or
Mounted on the structures front end is a carved head with various animal features: long antelope horns, a
gaping mouth studded with teeth, and backward - curving tusks. Older examples of the Kagba, made in the
1950's prior to the iconoclastic ravages of the Massa religious movement, are marked by a strikingly simple
composition. More recent versions, in contrast, show great elaboration, being ornamented with figurative and
symbolic elements and brightly painted.
26" from tip of horn to tip of mouth
7" wide x 9" deep
Wood and pigment
Provenance: Gallerie Nimba
This piece is no longer in my collection
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|Senufo Nafiq or Nasolo
|One of the largest masks to be seen at a Senufo funeral is the Nafiq, which charges at terrifying speed through
the forest and into the village during funeral rites. Taking the form of a gigantic buffalo, with a head made up
from elements of buffalo, warthog, crocodile, and antelope, the Nafiq symbolizes intellectual and physical
perfection. Its huge body is constructed on a wooden armature covered with geometrically patterned matting.
When the horned head is fixed to the front, the mask measures more than six feet in height and can be up to
fifteen feet in length. Concealed within the mask, two Poro society members articulate its enormous structure.
One of them operates a resonating instrument that produces the creature's characteristic roaring and acts as a
warning for the uninitiated to keep out of its way. The Nafiq is always accompanied by two acrobat-guardians
who guide it through its maneuvers and keep away non-initiates. Dressed from head to toe in tightly woven mesh
suits fringed with raffia, the ritual guardians dance agilely round the Nafiq. Goading and taunting the enormous
mask, they lie down in front of him, waiting until the last second before jumping up to escape his ravenous jaws.