Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Mali
|Nasolo mask from the Kagba ritual
Senufo masks like this which were not worn over the head were instead attached to the front and top of a
structure consisting of a tent like structure of reeds, covered with ornamentally painted mats or blankets
which requires two dancers to move it. The structure is referred to as 'Nasolo' which translates to
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 Nasolo, 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.
wood, pigment, paint
From the 70's
|One of the largest masks to be seen at a Senufo rituals is the Nafiq or Nasolo, which charges at terrifying speed
through the forest and into the village during rituals. Taking the form of a gigantic buffalo, with a head made up
from elements of buffalo, warthog, crocodile, and antelope, the Nafiq/Nasolo 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/Nasolo 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/Nasolo. 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.
|Information below from the book “The Dance, Art, and Ritual of Africa” by Michel Huet.
Description- “Kagba ritual in which the giant ox Nasolo (literally ‘elephant-ox’) is presented to the neophytes.
This unique being, Nasolo, moves around the periphery of the central Sinzanga accompanied by a guide-
interpreter, Kodalu, who is completely covered by a cotton garment. They appear to be moving rather at
random, but in fact Nasolo moves with great precision from one demarcated plot to the other, all along the
Nasolo consists of a light wooden cylindrical frame covered with braid and decorated with geometrical patterns in
many different colors. Kagba means, in fact, ‘many colored’. In front is a sculptural head combining antelope and
crocodile motifs, and sometimes elements of man. At the back is a tail of plaited raffia. The whole structure is
often well over a meter in height and as much as 5 meters in length. It is maneuvered by two men hidden inside.
Sometimes one of the bearers manipulates a sort of rubbing device that emits a sound resembling a lion’s roar.
For the neophytes, although the elements are not homogeneous and do not recall any specific creature, Nasolo
represents a buffalo, a symbol of intellectual and physical perfection.”
|Wanyugo, Kponyugo and Kagba in my collection.