Nature, Spirits and Arts in Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Luruya (dwarf mask), Nyumu family, Bwa peoples, village of Boni, Burkina Faso, 1984. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.


The Bwa tell a story about the origin or meaning of each mask. This very small plank mask represents Luruya, the dwarf, an ancient ancestor who was at ease in the wilderness, and could communicate freely with the wild animals. He never grew over three feet tall, and when in great age he lay on his deathbed, his nephews and nieces asked what they could do to remember and honor him. He told them to carve a small plank mask, just like the great masks his brothers had worn, but of the small size he could wear. The cross pattern on the plank is called bidawhey, and is worn on the foreheads of all Bwa near the towns of Boni and Dossi as a symbol of spiritual identity. Like most masks in Burkina Faso, this mask is worn with a costume of cultivated hemp fiber.


Burkina Faso; Bwa peoples. Plank Masquerade. Video by Christopher D. Roy.