Nature, Spirits and Arts in Burkina Faso
by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa
In the village of Pa the people tell of an ancestor who accompanied a war party on a surprise attack against a neighboring village. The party was itself surprised and ambushed by their neighbors, and fled for their lives. The ancestor crept into the burrow of a great serpent, calling out to the serpent that he intended it no harm, and if it protected him he would honor it with a mask. When he returned to his village he commissioned a mask that was so long and slender it attracted great crowds at market day dances, who spent their money in the village market and contributed to the well-being of the community. The mask performer moves his head back and forth from side to side in such a way that the body of the snake above him seems to undulate in place.