The University of Iowa University of Iowa

The Art of Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy (1947-2019)
University of Iowa

Annual Ancestral Sacrifice

Burkina Faso; Mossi artist. Ancestral shrine. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

On one occasion each year, usually just before the beginning of the rainy season in May, all of the masks of each clan in a community participate in a ritual called suku or sigim-dam (literally, "the sukomse beer"). General sacrifices are made on the clan masks, and through the masks, in their function as protective totemic spirit of the clan, to the spirits of the ancestors. These sacrifices invoke the blessings of all of the ancestors. The spirits are requested to bring an early and abundant rainy season and to provide for the general well-being of the entire clan during the coming year. Large quantities of ram (millet beer) are brewed to be offered in sacrifices and to be consumed by the clan members. The masks of each clan move through the village, visiting the kimse-roogo, or clan spirit house in each neighborhood in turn, to honor their ancestors.