Initiation

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Mali; Bamana peoples

Mask

Wood

H. 45.7 cm (18")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.210

Among the Bamana, men and women may join a number of initiation societies or jow (associations). The most senior of these is called Kore and is concerned with the most esoteric knowledge of humankind’s place in the universe and our relation to the creator God, Faro. The Kore is further divided into a several groups, which are identified with animals and recreate the characteristics of those animals as metaphors for the virtues and vices of humankind. The monkeys are capricious and mischievous, the horse is hard-working, the lion is proud, powerful and wise, and the hyena, represented by this mask, is cruel and gluttonous. The performances of Kore masks are intended to mock human life and the physical world and to emphasize that members of Kore are able to transcend the physical world and exist on a more spiritual level.