About the Yaure Tribe
In every way, the Yaure are betweeners. They inhabit the central area of Ivory Coast between the Baule and the Guro. Therefore, not only are they influenced in their language by both neighboring tribes but also in their culture, religion and art. Sandwiched between two worlds, the Yaure are a spectrum of diversity. At one end, the people speak predominantly the Akan language of the Baule and at the other end, they speak the Mande language of the Youre.
However, the Yaure are not simply a mix of these two neighbors. The 20,000+ people actually show a strong sense of identity and an art quite refined and distinct enough to be separable from the Baule and the Guro.
For art, the Yaure are fond of putting their craftsmanship everywhere. Everyday objects are filled with artistic patterns and figures. In a way, it seems the Yaure life is itself a canvas for art. Carvers display their skills in everything wooden. It is, therefore, usual to find Yaure practical tools and implements carved to almost the same ornamental detail as their art pieces. The Yaure also carve statuettes believed to provide protection. These are detailed figures with the heads getting the greatest attention. However, Yaure masks are the cream of the art expressions of the tribe.
In many ways, the Yaure masks are similar to those of the Baule and the Guro. There is the same tendency to mix human and animal features, the same penchant for superstructures and the same elaborate coiffure and patterned collar for their masks. However, there are differentiating markers.
For one, Yaure masks have elongated faces with pouting lips. In addition, horns are the commonest superstructures found on Yaure masks. These can also feature little human or bird figures. The coiffure on Yaure masks are simple and done in three parts, parted on each side. Their masks also always have serrated edges which may qualify for a collar or simply be a beautifying addition to the masks. Yaure masks are similarly simply tattooed with most scarification marks being few short repetitive marks placed on the forehead.
The Yaure believe their masks are embodiments of the yu spirit, dangerous to handle by all and to be handled with care. There are two occasions for the appearance of masquerades wearing these masks and both are related to funerals and tribal purification. These are during the je celebration and the lo ceremony.
The je celebration features painted masks while the lo ceremony has only black masks. After a death that the tribe believes to disturb the social order of the village, the je masks appear to purify the village and restore social equilibrium. Subsequently, the lo masks come out for the actual funeral to release the spirit of the dead to journey into the other world.
The Yaure discourage their women from participating in this ritual of death and forbid them looking upon these masks for fear that they may turn infertile. Apart from the color separation, the functions of each Yaure mask can include both the je and lo dances. With these masks, the Yaure believe they can influence the revered yu spirits and turn them from harming the people to protecting them.
Yaure masks are the prime examples of amalgams of two worlds. With years of influence from their neighbors, the Yaure forged a more refined art by incorporating the most appealing aspects of the Baule and the Guro arts and steeping them in their own simple and elegant styles. The result is a people who cannot find media enough for their prolific art expressions.
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