An Introduction To The Art of Ivory Coast; African Masks & African Statues

The most dominant form of Ivorian art is the African mask. Of the over sixty ethnic groups in Ivory Coast, the most popular masks are made by the Baoule, the Senuofo, the Dan and the Guro. Because quite a number of the ethnicities overlap in language and culture, it is usual to see cross-influencWest African Maskes in the sculpture of these ethnic groups. For example, the masks of the Baoule are strongly influenced by those of Senufo and Guro. In addition, since the Baoule people are part of a larger migrant Akan nation with ties to the Asante Kingdom of Ghana, there are similarities in their art forms too.

The Dan people, on the other hand, are also present in Liberia. Their beliefs, culture and art are full of expressions of the dual nature of beings. This dichotomy is represented in combining both sexes in their sculpture and in having a divide between the world of the living (the village) and the threshold of the spirits (the forest). The chief art form with the Dan is also the mask and the wearers of their masks are carefully chosen.

The Senuofo people are spread between Ivory Coast and Mali. They have a caste system and also have a school system for their sculptors. However, sculptors here are much lower on the caste system than farmers who make more money.

Generally, the masks of Ivory Coast are believed by the various ethnic groups to be inhabited by spirits. This may be of deities or of represented ancestors.  The popular belief also assumes that the spirit of a mask is taken on by the wearer.

Other art forms in Ivory Coast include the wooden dolls, pottery and weaving of the Akye people; the grave monuments of the Anye; the wooden spoons of the Dan; and the brass sculpture of the Senuofo.

Even today, the mask is regarded as the chief art in Ivory Coast. Every year, the Fêtes des Masques, a Festival of Masks is held in November. It involves chains of villages and elaborate dance competitions. In March, there is a week long carnival in Bouake.

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