Nature, Spirits and Arts in Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Bush buffalo and antelope masks, Nyumu family, Bwa peoples, village of Boni, Burkina Faso, 1983. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

During performances great value is placed on the interpretation of the character of the spirit the mask represents. Here the antelope (green) and bush cow (red) masks waited to perform. When the musicians began to play, on drums, flutes and balafons, the music that accompanies the bush cow dance, the bush cow got up and marched through the audience and danced in a distant stubble field far from the audience and musicians. At the end of the performance the audience responded with laughter and much applause. When asked why the bush cow performed so far away, an elder explained, “You know, cows are very stupid.” The hemp costumes are dyed brown with natural dyes and green, yellow or red with German commercial dye purchased in the large market in the city of Bobo Dioulasso.