Rituals of Healing

By Barbara Thompson
Friends of Usambara Society, Tanzania (formerly Stanford University; University of Iowa)

Four nwantantay (plank masks), Nyumu family, Bwa peoples, village of Boni, Burkina Faso, 1983. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

It is very difficult, but also essential, to the well-being of the community to emulate the ancestors in their relations with the natural and supernatural worlds. Ultimately, the bush spirits that are represented by these plank masks purify the village and regenerate the human community, providing them with blessings and protection, and reintegrate humans in the cycle of nature. The rapid spinning of the mask in the video mimics the gesture of God at the creation as he molded the world from a ball of mud.


Burkina Faso; Bwa peoples. Plank Masquerade. Video by Christopher D. Roy.