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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: Zanaure (Gazelle)
 
Materials: Wood, raffia
 
Provenance: Coll. Fampodgie Adaya, New Orleans. Andrew Turley, SuagaCollection 1999.
 
Comments: The raffia has been added to this mask post-purchase. Age estimated circa 1960.

The connection of the dangerous forces of the wilderness with the safety and comforts of home is indicative of the paradoxical nature of Guro masks, many of which represent wild animals. The animals not only symbolize powerful and potentially malevolent spirits of the bush, but also recall the pre-colonial era when most men participated in co-operative hunts (“doma” or “ka lupao”) as a form of subsistence.

Although hunting has been outlawed since colonial times, today the co-operative spirit which was fostered by group hunting practices is expressed through men' secret societies such as Je. These societies are responsible for maintaining the ritual masks thus preserving the link between the powerful spirits of the wilderness and the collective concerns of the village through performance and dance.

Guro art is related to the Baule - they were originally called Kweni but were violently colonized by the French in 1906 and 1912 and were given the Baule name Guro. This mask represents the red deer or gazelle (zanaure or zuru) but there are a variety of animal masks in the Je group:

Vii - the elephant
Bene - the dog
Dri - the bull
Du - the wild buffalo
Groga - the chimpanzee
Ze - the antelope

This mask was worn on the top of the head with the wearer able to see out the mouth. It was supplemented by a voluminous costume of palm-frond strips or reed grass which completely conceals the dancers body. The red and black patterns are symbolic of male power. There is damage to its left ear, right horn, plenty of wear and insect damage on the inside and bottom edges (probably the reason it was sold).

Sources:

  1. Maskengestalten Der Guro, Eberhard Fischer & Lorenz Homberger. 1985.
  2. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  3. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  4. Guro Masks. Virginia University. Online. 2000.
  5. Masks of Black Africa. Ladislas Segy. 1976.