Large and exceptional Nafana Bedu Mask

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  • $725

Exceptional and Large Nafana Bedu Mask from Cote d'Ivoire.

 These huge polychrome plank masks known as Bedu are danced in ceremonies designed to rid the village of harmful spirits. All have a shallow box-like extension on the back that functions to support the mask on the dancer's head. They are not as heavy as their size would indicate and can therefore be hung on a wall. Such plank masks are among the largest masks in Africa.

The form of the Bedu mask represents a mythical buffalo-like animal that plays an important role in the New Year’s celebration in the Bondoukou regions of north-west of Ghana and the north-east of Côte d’Ivoire. Bedu masquerade is the focus of the month-long New Year’s celebrations, the winter solstice festival called Zaurau, where a pair of dancers perform with masks, one male and the other female. Bedu masks appeared in the early twentieth century – they are first recorded in the 1930s. They were similar in form to the Sakrobundi masks of the nineteenth century, which had been linked to an anti-witchcraft cult. Like the Sakrobundi masks, the Bedu masks belonged to one of the many secret societies, for which membership typically required initiation. During the initiation, young boys had to endure physical tests and an apprenticeship in secret knowledge of the supernatural. Sakrobundi and the secret societies were banned by the colonial government because they were seen as a threat to their authority.

The Nafana are a Senufo people living in the north-west of Ghana and the north-east of Côte d’Ivoire, in the area east of Bonduku. They number about 45,000and they speak the Nafaanra dialect within the Senufo language group.


54 inches x 22 inches

Condition: Very good without repair or restoration