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Butterfly Masks

The Bwa of Mali and Burkina Faso are surrounded by the Bamana in north, the Bobo in the west, the Marka in the east and the Gurunsi and Lobi in the south. Each Bwa village is directed by a council of elders where the ‘labie’, the eldest member of the ruling clan is the master of the soil. Socially the Bwa are divided into three endogenous professional classes or castes: farmers, blacksmiths and griots (musicians who recount historical information through song.) The spiritual life of the Bwa is based on worship devoted to Do, the son of God and the founding ancestors. Do intervenes at the time of agrarian rituals and funerals. Do also represents the life force of the forest, plant life and the fields. During rituals the villagers make masks of leaves incarnating Do; wooden masks are created only by the Bwa in the south called the ‘nieguegue’ (“the scarified ones.) Their masks represent animals: antelopes, insects, monkeys, fish, birds and bush spirits that would take on supernatural forms. They are worn in front of the face, attached with a thick rope which the dancer holds in his mouth. The famous huge Butterfly mask is poly-chromed, can be decorated with concentric circles and or blackened geometrical markings and regularly feature a checkerboard backing. Red, white and black are the only colors allowed to adorn these masks. This mask would be worn during agricultural festivals where the dancers would mimic the motion of a butterfly. Just before a rainfall, it is said that swarms of butterflies appear. This dance is made in hope the gods will cause rain to fall on the newly planted field. 

11/26/16: Butterfly masks are in supply. Postings will start 11/27/16

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