Our page banner is a detail of a helmet mask from Burkina Faso.
Photo: (Creative Commons) © Andreas Praefcke
Bwa masks are believed to possess special powers which are controlled by those who wear them.
These masks are plank shaped with a circular face at one end and a crescent moon at the other.
Their wearer looks through a hole in the mouth. The eyes are based on an owl and the hooked nose comes from the hornbill. Both these birds are thought to possess magical powers.
The plank section is decorated with geometric patterns which are an essential design element in many African masks and carvings. Geometric pattern creates an external rhythm which echoes the internal spiritual energy of the artwork. It can also be used as a coded language where the design communicates secret knowledge to those in the know.
The designs on this Bwa Mask, which is used to celebrate boys' initiation into adulthood, represent information about the myths and morality that the boys must learn before they can be accepted into adult society.
The Bwa are a farming community who come from Mali and Burkina Faso. Masks are only made by those who live in the southern parts of their territory.