Komo among Tagwa-Senufo Peoples in Southwest Burkina Faso

by Boureima T. Diamitani
West African Museums Programme

Burkina FasoCôte d’Ivoire or MaliSenufo peoples
Kponyungo (funeral head mask)
L. 104 cm. (41")
University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.533

Each Komo society maintains two important ritual places in the village: a commit (sacred grove outside the village) and the komobugu (Komo house).  As soon as a Komotigui buys a new Komo and orders the mask, he must also build a komobugu, which will shelter the Komo mask, the costume, and most importantly, the core element that makes up the power of the Komo. A man can buy his Komo wherever he wants. The choice and the style of the new mask are the responsibility of the new Komotigui.  The komobugu is the place of birth but also of burial of the Komo.  If a Komo mask is no longer in use, it is buried inside the komobugu with all its power objects.

The Komo is the representation of the sacred art that allows the Senufo Tagwa to define themselves as a Tagwa community and as a distinct ethnic group within the Senufo complex. The Komo society, which varies widely from village to village, is a testament to the independent nature of Tagwa communities. Each determines a Komo mask style identified with the owner.