By Monica Demott
(formerly University of Iowa)

Burkina Faso; Mossi artist

Karan-wemba (mask with female figure)

Wood, metal

H. 66.7 cm (26")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.475

The first phase is a response to the disruption of the village's daily life.  The corpse is prepared and people begin to come to terms with the loss of the individual.  The second phase is a period of liminality in which a new understanding of life without the deceased is forged.  In the third phase, the community has begun to resume regular life: patterns of avoidance of the mourning period are lifted and the deceased's inheritance, as well as social and work-related responsibilities, are redistributed.  Many Africans understand that the ancestors journey through the spiritual world where they undergo further transitions of being.  This Mossi mask was worn at the funeral of a woman whose husband had died and whose children were adults with children of their own, and at great age returned to her father’s house to assume the role of a living ancestress.