The Art of Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa


Although Dafing formal characteristics are typically Mandé, the use and meaning of masks conforms to stereotypes in central Burkina. As among all peoples in Burkina, masks are family oriented, with each clan taking responsibility for the carving of masks that represent animal and supernatural characters in the clan's histories. A single clan can use masks of wood or of leaves. The wood and leaf masks never dance together, although they may appear on the same day for the same event. Leaf masks represent Do, the spirit of the bush and of plant life. Masks in wood must open and close every mask performance. Masks of wood represent spirits from the bush that watch over the families and protect them from sorcery. Dafing wood and leaf masks appear at annual renewal or village purification ceremonies, at funerals of male and female elders and at the initiations of young boys. There are no secret associations.