Nature, Spirits and Arts in Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Hyena mask, Nuna peoples, village of Tisse, Burkina Faso, 1984. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

Among the many characters represented by masks in central Burkina Faso are the hyena, a powerful spiritual being, respected for its cunning and aggressiveness, but feared for its predatory character and despised for its filthy eating habits and smell. In the Nuna village of Tisse, when the hyena mask emerges from the mask storehouse and sits down next to the other masks in the community, the other masks get up and move quickly to the opposite side of the performance area. On this mask, the artist has used both European dye and enamel paint.