Nature, Spirits and Arts in Burkina Faso

by Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

A young artist from the Konate family of smiths in the village of Ouri, Bwa peoples, Burkina Faso, 1985. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.  

Among several Voltaic peoples the religious laws that are passed from spirits to congregation through the thildaar are made visible to the community in many ways. They are worn as scars on the faces and bodies of members of the congregation, including their children, as here on the face of this young Bwa artist, a member of the Konate family. The Lobi wore such patterns of scars in the past as visible reminders of their membership in very small congregations. Among the southern Bwa the practice is still common. These patterns are compared to the graphic patterns on masks, buildings, pottery, and textiles, and the same meanings are given to the patterns in a variety of media. From one congregation, community, and ethnic group to another, each pattern may represent a variety of meanings. Thus, the patterns are universal but their meanings are not.