The Art of Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Conclusions: The Style Map of Burkina Faso

The pages that follow are intended to serve as a cross-cultural comparative stylistic summary of the material I have presented in this study.

The mask styles of Burkina Faso are characterized by the use of tall planks that rise above the face of the mask. These plank masks include the karanga masks of the northern Mossi in Yatenga, numerous gurunsi mask types that include planks supported by anthropomorphic figures, Dafing masks with angular Mande-style features which are sometimes surmounted by a curving plank, the great nwantantay masks of the southern Bwa, and the nwenke masks used by Bobo smiths and by the Bolô.

Most of these peoples also produce stylized animal masks that represent the important physical features of the animal.

All of these masks may be placed in one of three broad geographical style groups: the Northern Voltaic Style, including the sculpture of the Dogon, Kurumba, and northern Mossi, the Central Voltaic Style, including the art of the southwestern Mossi, Nunuma, Nuna, Winiama, Léla, Dafing, and Bwa, and the Western Voltaic Style which includes the sculpture of the Bobo, Bolô, Senufo, and Tusyâ. The characteristics that are determinant in identifying these three styles are the presence or absence of the red, white and black geometric patterns and target-shaped eye. None of the Northern Style groups use the target pattern, although they do employ red, white, and black patterns. These are ubiquitous in the Central Voltaic area. Western Voltaic Style groups use neither the target nor red, white and black patterns.