Nature, Spirits and Arts in Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Crocodile masks, Lamien family, Bwa peoples, village of Dossi, Burkina Faso, 1984.  Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

The Lamien family in the village of Dossi tell of an ancestor who went into the wilderness looking for new land to farm. He became lost and disoriented, and sat in the shade of a tree to rest. He heard a sound and walked toward it, tripped on a root and tumbled down the bank of the Black Volta River, stopping himself just short of the jaws of two enormous crocodiles drawn up on the bank. One crocodile slowly opened its jaws to reveal a large fish. The ancestor slowly and carefully withdrew the fish, scurried up the bank with it, where he cooked and ate it. His energy restored, he returned to his village and brought his family to the place, knowing that the supernatural crocodile spirit he had encountered would watch over his family. Here the crocodile pair dance in a liquid, smooth performance that evokes their watery world.

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