The University of Iowa University of Iowa

The Art of Burkina Faso

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

Harvest Ceremonies: Because of their close relationship with the natural world and the vital force of the bush and plants, the farmers' masks of leaves have an important role to play in annual rites of harvest. The masks absorb the toxic forces that are present in the newly harvested crops just brought into the village, and return to the bush these forces that cause sickness and conflict in the village, restoring the balance of nature/culture, bush/village that was established by Wuro. The millet gathered at harvest is one of the original gifts of Wuro, and for man to consume it is an attack on Wuro's creations and an insult to the creator of life. To cut the millet is to kill it, freeing the spirit that it contains. To allow this spirit to remain in the village is to invite disaster in the form of disease and infertility. The masks "clean" the millet so that it can be eaten safely by humans, returning to the bush the dangerous spirits and asking Wuro's forgiveness through appropriate sacrifices.

When farming is done for the year, the time has arrived to celebrate the rites of initiation which require, to succeed, the compliance of the divinities. The cult dignitaries inform the divinities and offer them propitiatory sacrifices.