Komo among Tagwa-Senufo Peoples in Southwest Burkina Faso

by Boureima T. Diamitani
West African Museums Programme

Komo masker. Tagwa peoples, Burkina Faso. Photo by Boureima Diamitani, 1997.

As with the Poro society, masks not only dance at the funerals of society members, but also serve important functions as agents of social control. The performance is announced many days before it actually takes place and attracts hundreds of people from all over the region, Tagwara and non-Tagwara.  The performance takes place only at night in the space in front of the Komotigui’s house.  If this space is not large enough the Komo can dance just a few moments here before going to the public plaza of the village where many people can attend. During his performance the masker is the authority, and can comment on the antisocial behavior of any member of the society, even the Komotigui. In this role, the masker stands in a privileged position, protected by the power of the spirits and ancestors. He is the Komo, a superman and a spirit with supernatural power, given by Kle. He is, above all men, responsible for the good of all the community.

The presentation of the completed mask in performance requires the cooperation of different categories of individuals: the Yelema, who is the "shadow" and interpreter of the Komo; the musicians, who play music according to the Komo’s directions; and the audience, which forms by no means the least important aspect of the Komo.