Baule Ram Mask Gbagba Côte d'Ivoire
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A superb mask from the Baule!
While the serene representation of the human face is what made the Baule famous, they are no less skilled in producing zoomorphic carvings of great beauty, with the well-known ram masks among the most-prized.Gbagba serve as much to entertain as they comment upon social behavior and are followed in the performance by horned masks representing wild animals that are ‚Äòhunted' and killed during the performance.
This mask was carved in a single piece of wood and was worn on the top of the head. Colors were renewed every time the mask has to perform.
Among the Baule people of Cote d'Ivoire Zoomorphic masks such as this wonderful ram mask represent bush spirits. Certain sources refer to this type of mask as an agricultural spirit. In general, Baule masks such as this appear in villages during various festivals, where they perform various typecast characters living in the village and zoomorphic behavior and qualities that may be compared to that of the humans. The ram mask has many male attributes and symbolizes a male character. His strong and beautiful spiral horns signify strength and power.
The Baule are members of the Akan peoples, who inhabit Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. During the 18th century, the Baule people migrated westward from Ghana when the Asante rose to power. The story of how they managed to break away from them has been preserved in their oral traditions. During the emergence of the Asante the Baule queen, Aura Poku, was in direct conflict with the Asante king, and when the Asante prevailed, the queen led her people away to the land they now occupy. Baule mythology holds that she had to sacrifice her son to the river god in order to complete the exodus safely. The male descendant of Aura Poku still lives in the original palace she established, and is honored by the Baule as their symbolic king. The Baule today are the most powerful group in Cote d'Ivoire, admired as highly skilled politicians, as well as talented artists, who have produced some of the most elegant objects known in West Africa.