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About the Guro Tribe

Of all animals, the Guro revere five: the antelope, the hyena, the leopard, the crocodile and the elephant. These are animals mostly found in the savannah and tropical forest where the 200,000-strong tribe lives. The Guro people are found in Ivory Coast; their art is closely related to their neighbor's, the Baule's. In fact, Guro is a Baule name; the actual indigenous name of the tribe is Kweni.

The Guro people are mostly farmers. Therefore, their craftsmanship embraces imageries tied to the land and to agrarian practices.  The symbolism of the four animals featured on their masks derives from these: the antelope is beloved for its grace and speed and for the folkloric belief that a mythical antelope taught men to farm. The hyena is regarded as a hardy animal living off the land, smart and resourceful; the leopard connotes power, bravery and enterprise; the crocodile is regarded as the king of the marshes, guarding the water bodies found in the hinterland location of the tribe. The elephant is believed to be graceful, kind, powerful, royal and loyal.

In addition, these animals are believed to represent links between the human and the spiritual worlds. No Guro mask is without hidden messages and spiritual importance. The tribal life is mostly regulated by the Je society. This male secret society is responsible for the social, administrative and judicial organization of the tribe. It is responsible for making decisions and for protecting the members of the tribe.

It is the Je society that guards and employs all of Guro masks. These masks are of two types: anthropomorphic and zoomorphic. Apart from masks, the Guro people also carve figures. These figures often stand with arms akimbo and have faces quite similar to the masks. Lesser figures are the elegant female heads mounted on Guro weaving looms.

Of masks, the Guro art is very similar to the Baule's and are sometimes difficult to tell apart. However, there are subtle differences between the two styles. For example, Guro masks usually have longer faces. Furthermore, the raised forehead and the bridge of the nose of a Guro mask forms an S-shape profile.

Another marker of Guro masks is the nature of the tattoo marks found on them. Guro tattoo marks replicate the scarification marks found on the men of the tribe. These marks are cut in relief on the foreheads and the cheeks in repetitions. Guro masks have small mouths and sharpened teeth. The coiffures on the masks are done in elaborate, geometric patterns, mostly in five parts. In addition, most Guro masks have broad, wooden collars to hold raffia cloaks worn by the dancers.

Yet another distinction of Guro masks is the usual and common addition of animal features even to human masks. These can be in the form of elephant's ears, antelope's horns or superstructures of bird's heads. So great is the tendency to add animal features to masks that the Guro carvers' finest masks are the mash-ups of different animal features. These are the zamble masks.

The zamble masks combine the attributes of hyena, antelope, leopard and crocodile. Like all Guro masks, they can be polychrome or come in brown and black. Zamble masks have the most intricate carvings of all Guro masks. The attention to detail and the fine, careful replication of the ridges on these masks are faithful reproductions. The uncannily accurate rendering of zamble masks gives them a bold, life-like quality and makes them highly prized.


Guro Tribal Ceremonial Mask
Guro Ceremonial Mask 19"

At Je ceremonies, the zamble masks are the first to appear. All Guro masks are sated in hidden tribal meanings and are considered fatal for women to behold. But their very extreme refinement makes them irresistible; for all art collectors, Guro masks represent some of the finest art works out of Africa, and the zamble masks are the most coveted.

View All our Guro African Masks:

Guro Tribe Ceremonial African Mask 19 Guro Tribe Ceremonial African Mask 19"

Item #2a14
Price: $260.00

SOLD African Guro Wood Animal Mask 30 SOLD African Guro Wood Animal Mask 30"

Item #4a1
Price: $380.00

SOLD African Guro Female Face Mask 20 SOLD African Guro Female Face Mask 20"

Item #1a34
Price: $310.00

SOLD African Guro Antelope Mask 38 SOLD African Guro Antelope Mask 38"

Item #1a52
Price: $290.00

SOLD Guro Tribe Zamble Mask  21 SOLD Guro Tribe Zamble Mask 21"

Item #2a19
Price: $260.00


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