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Yaure (Yaoure) People

Location: Central Cote d'Ivoire

Population: 20,000

Arts: The Yaure, of Akan descent, are known mostly for their striking masks. Though they display elements of their neighbors, the Baule and Guro, there are some distinctive features which make these masks particularly appealing. The most common of these elements are the serrated edges surrounding the border of the face. The Yaure produced two types of masks, those that were black and those that were brightly painted. The darker ones were used in funeral processions, and are highly-prized by collectors for their stark beauty. Known as "lo" masks, their purpose was to appease supernatural powers known as "yu." The "yu," though vital for life, could also destroy, so veneration was important to ease the understandable social and spiritual tension present after the death of an elder.

Masks could not be seen by women, and were treated with caution even by the men who danced them. The ritual significance of masks in the Ivory Coast has been diminished by Western influence and civil unrest, but are still used for special occasions. The more colorful masks are difficult to differentiate from those of Guro, and probably have similar functions, which are many, from judicial proceedings to magical ceremonies.

History: Yaure history is closely linked with that of the Baule, since they were part of the migration of the Akan peoples from Ghana as the Ashante Kingdom rose to power during the 18th century. The Yaure, depending on where they live, speak both Mande and Baule. In addition to their language, their art and culture varies based on whether they are located near the Baule or Guro. For more detailed historical information, see the Baule write-up on our site.