|Baule Mask (Guro) Ivory coast. Early 20th century. 15''
|Excellent mask with clear expression of satisfaction, serenity and royalty. It's hair dress and pierced
dome eyes shape and sharp nose and the scarification on the forehead are traditional in this mask.
The classic carving of the Baule masks and their beauty have been admired by European artists for
over a century. Among the Baule people, there is a tradition of admiration for well made objects and
those who make them. The finest masks are typically worn by the best dancers.
The Baule live in Ivory Coast ( west Africa ), where they represent the largest ethnic group in the
country. This object would have been used in a type of performance known as Mblo, which use the
face mask in skits and solo dances. While Mblo entertainments are among the oldest of the Baule's
art forms, today these dances are considered old-fashion in many villages.
Mblo masks are believed to be portrait masks, and each example is unique. As in many masking
cultures, when the mask is worn in a dance the identity of the wearer gives way to that of the mask.
For Baule, this effect is further enhanced by the fact that they do not clearly distinguish between the
man made object (mask or sculpture) and the character portrayed (whether person or spirit).
Like other sculpted objects, Baule masks are individually owned, although the owner may neither wear
nor keep the mask. The wearers, always male, serve as caretakers of the objects. While not sacred, a
Mblo mask is still regarded as powerful and is treated with great care. When not in use, a mask is
wrapped in cotton cloth and hung in the dancer's sleeping room. Significantly, a Baule mask should
be understood as part of a larger whole that consist of both dance ant costume. In fact, masks are
generally seen only in this context ; a mask in isolation is regarded as less beautiful - even incomplete.