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Guro Je mask

Guro Je mask
Guro Je maskGuro Je maskGuro Je maskGuro Je mask
Tribe: Guro
Country: Ivory Coast
Ritual: Je Society
Name: Zeiwe
 
Materials: Wood, nails, fibre
 
Provenance: Coll. Ralph Proctor, Dakar, Senegal 1983. Ralph Proctor Galleries 1983-2003. Andrew Turley, SuagaCollection 2003.
 
Comments: Exhibited Allegheny College Pittsburgh 2003. Age estimated by Candice Ranelli at Ralph Proctor Gallery circa 1950.

In northern Guro region a highly revered being called Gye wears a heavy horizontal helmet mask with the powerful horns of the forest buffalo and wide gaping jaws. In the southern Guro region masqueraders are known as Je, and bring forth a host of human and animal like beings. The Je zoomorphic like face masks identify a spirit linked to a single wild beast, such as an elephant, gazelle, dog or antelope and the masqueraders dance in a manner appropriate to the animal.

The southern Je society is responsible for social, political and judicial questions, decisions of peace or aggression, policing tasks and the detection and destruction of evil forces (as well as appearing at funerals of its members). All the masks are ostensibly fatal for women to view.

In the southern Guro, this mask Zeiwe (or Zewe) is the boss or spokesman of the Je. Ariane Deluz who wrote several commentaries on The Art of Cote d’Ivoire from the collections of the Barbier Mueller Museum attributes great potency to the mask.

This particular example has a bite bar lashed in place so that the dancer could stabilise the structure while leaping and dancing. There are holes drilled for a raffia skirt to cover the dancers shoulders.

The mask has been painted in European paints with a beautiful triangulated headband across the forehead in red, yellow, black, white and green. The hooded eyes look mischievously down the elongated snout to the grimacing mouth full of teeth. The extreme right horn has been broken and tribally repaired with 3 iron nails - a demonstration of its power having been repaired and continually used.

There is a strikingly similar mask in the Barbier-Mueller Museum acquired in 1955.

Sources:

  1. Candice Ranelli, Ralph Proctor Gallery. Pittsburgh. 2003.
  2. Maskengestalten Der Guro, Eberhard Fischer & Lorenz Homberger. 1985.
  3. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  4. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.