Bwa/Nuna Buffalo Mask, Southeast Region, Black Volta Basin, Burkina Faso
height 23 1/2in (60cm)
Henri Kamer, New York and Paris (field collected circa 1970 in Burkina Faso with Paul Tishman when they were making a film on the people and collecting). (See below: Haute Volta, Kamer, Henri, 1973)
Private Collection, New York
Representing the head of a buffalo with red and black vegetal and mineral pigments and white kaolin, with strong geometric patterns on rectangular planes and large mask size yielding a powerful presence. Triangular snout and conical, concentric eyes expanding to perfectly circular horns, curved towards each other. Pierced around back perimeter for attachments; worn surface exhibiting age and much use.
"...Also, when in early 1970, Mr. Henri Kamer came to me at the National Museum of Ouagadougou and explained to me his film project on the Arts and Traditions of the Upper Volta, I offered my assistance spontaneously, as his business met my concerns. Enthusiastic, I did not wait the necessary steps and necessary to my minister, the Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports, and obtained official permission to work with the Mission Kamer, who was still in the Republic of the Ivory Coast. A few days later I met in Bobo-Dioulasso, the Mission Kamer in full, with five special vehicles composed of French technicians and sound and image, which had joined Mr. Paul Tishman, American collector of great reputation, which I admire the quality of African collections. And that's why I feel that Mr. Henri Kamer has reached the goal it was important, to always go to the discovery of the voltaic especially Art and Art negro in general. ... " (Kamer, Henri, Haute Volta, Brussels, 1973)
"The many different animals that are represented can be identified by the shapes of the horns or by the form of the face, which is basically similar from one type to another. The head includes a long muzzle, which in the case of the buffalo mask takes the form of an open triangle with large round eyes surrounded by concentric circles... Masks are covered with complex compositions of triangles, rectangles, dentate patterns and other geometric shapes which are carved and then colored red, black and white using natural vegetal and mineral pigments... Frequently the snout of an animal mask is triangular when seen from the front opening, with the sides of the snout composed of flat rectangles marked by intersecting diagonals in black and red, with the interstices white... Although several types of wood are used to carve masks and figures, most masks throughout the region are carved from the wood of the Ceiba pentandra, which is called "cotton tree', 'silk-cotton tree' or 'ceiba'. The wood is fairly soft and fine grained, like pine, so it is easy to carve. It is very light, which makes it suitable for masks that are to be worn... Masks are worn over the face among the Nunuma, Nuna and Winiama so that the performer peers out through the mouth... The shape of the mask, its geometric patterns on a mask is a symbol in a phrase that describes the meaning and importance of the mask itself. When all of the symbols are taken together they give the mask a name that refers to a lesson in the proper conduct of life. It is clear that the mask language is complex and carefully worked out..." (Roy, Christopher D., The Art of Burkina Faso, 2002)