Komo among Tagwa-Senufo Peoples in Southwest Burkina Faso

by Boureima T. Diamitani
West African Museums Programme

Mali; Bamana peoples

Komo-ku (Head of the Komo)

Wood, horn, porcupine quill, hair, metal, pigment, encrustations

59.06 x 83.19 cm (23 1/4 x 32 3/4")

Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Katherine White and the Boeing Company, 81.17.18

Although the Komo belongs to a family or a clan, it also belongs to the entire village where the Komo appears, up to and including the village political leaders even if they do not possess a Komo of their own. Once a person wears the mask, he loses his own identity to become the Komo, with authority over anyone in the village. He becomes the voice of the ancestors and spirits.  He instructs, counsels, helps, and protects members of the Komo society and the village leaders. The Komo also interprets the requests of the population, by prescribing sacrifices and demanding respect for ancestral practices.  On the day the Komo performs, other performances and rituals are postponed for another day. In the same village, two different Komo do not perform at the same time.  The family that owns the mask controls his appearance in the community and is in charge of the mask's protection and safekeeping.