Komo among Tagwa-Senufo Peoples in Southwest Burkina Faso

by Boureima T. Diamitani
West African Museums Programme

Mali; Bamana peoples

Komo kun (head of Komo)

Wood, quill, feather, horn

H. 24.8 cm (9 3/4")

Detroit Institute of Arts, 72.734

Komo Masquerade

The Tagwa call their Komo warakun, "head of wild animal", or yirikun, "head of piece of wood."  The term wara in Dyula does not refer one specific animal but all carnivores that represent a danger to humans.  The Tagwa believe that the kun (head) is the most important part of the body.  The Komo mask—both sacred and charged with great power and authority—is a horizontal helmet carved of wood in the form of a wild animal, with an enormous mouth full of teeth. It includes Koba or buffalo horns, porcupine quills and other objects such as animal's jaws, claws and wild bird feathers.  The Komo mask incorporates these elements to serve as deliberate warnings to the malevolent and sorcerers. Horns are always included to emphasize powerful impact.  The Tagwa want to stress the strange character of the Komo—this strange animal found in the bush.  Komo is a spirit whose real face cannot be represented.   Inaccessible to the general public, the Komo mask is seen only by initiated members during specific ceremonies.