Baule Figural Monkey Mask Côte d'Ivoire
A Baule mask portraying the abstracted face of a primate. The monkey form is clear, with a rounded and elongated jaw. Carved from a single piece of hard, solid wood, this is an impressive example of Baule carving. The patina is thick and the mask shows signs of age.
Monkey carvings known as Mbra and sometimes referred to as Gbekre are considered as power figure used in many rituals especially during a trance divination where the spirit of Mbra assists the diviner in his effort to transmit the spirits of other world message to the living in order to solve a problem during a consultation.
The Baule have produced animal masks, very often composed of human and zoomorphic elements taken from animals prominent in everyday life . As for many other animal masks this one would dance to honor visiting dignitaries and during funerals honoring senior men and former dancers of masks. Though identified with the sacred forest and the men's society, Baule animal masks do not appear to have a well defined religious or ritual function. However they serve to protect the village from external danger or war. In any case they are not to be seen by women during their appearance.