Baule Elephant Mask Glao or Klolo

  • Tribe: Baule
  • Origin: Cote D'ivoire (Ivory Coast)
  • Approx Age: 60+ Years old
  • Materials: Wood & pigment
  • Dimensions cm: 46 long x 22 wide
  • Ref. Number: 0519
£ SOLD

A fine and old example of a Baule elephant mask Glao or Klolo. The Chief of a Baule village in  Bouake who sold us this piece says that the Baule elephant mask is a symbol of the Ivory Coast and that this mask comes out at the beginning of any large village ceremony to purify the village and bring peace and abundance of happiness. This mask is over 60 years old and has visible signs of wear and tear, slight cracks, scuffs and minor tribal repairs but nothing that takes away the true beauty and style of this gorgeous mask.

The Baule people is one of the largest ethnic group in the Côte d’Ivoire. They have played a central role in twentieth-century history of the country. They waged the longest war of resistance to French colonization of any West African people, and maintained their traditional objects and beliefs longer than many groups in such constant contact with European administrators, traders, and missionaries. The Baule belong to the Akan peoples who inhabit Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. According to a legend, during the eighteenth century, the queen, Abla Poku, had to lead her people west to the shores of the Comoe, the land of Senufo. In order to cross the river, she sacrificed her own son. This sacrifice was the origin of the name Baule, for baouli means “the child has died.” Now about one million Baule occupy a part of the eastern Côte d’Ivoire between the Komoé and Bandama rivers that is both forest and savanna land. Baule society was characterized by extreme individualism, great tolerance, a deep aversion toward rigid political structures, and a lack of age classes, initiation, circumcision, priests, secret societies, or associations with hierarchical levels. Each village was independent from the others and made its own decisions under the presiding presence of a council of elders. Everyone participated in discussions, including slaves. It was an egalitarian society. The Baule compact villages are divided into wards, or quarters, and subdivided into family compounds of rectangular dwellings arranged around a courtyard; the compounds are usually aligned on either side of the main village street.

The Baule are also noted for their fine wooden sculpture, particularly for their ritual figures representing spirits; these are associated with the ancestor cult. The Baule have also created monkey figures gbekre that more or less resemble each other. Endowed with prognathic jaw and sharp teeth and a granular patina resulting from sacrifices, the monkey holds a bowl or a pestle in its paws. Sources differ on its role or function: some say it intervenes in the ritual of divination, others that it is a protection against sorcerers, or a protective divinity of agrarian rites, or a bush spirit. The figures and human masks are elegant — well polished, with elaborate hairdressings and scarification.

Goli is the day-long spectacle that normally involves the whole village and includes the appearance of four pairs of masks, music played on special instruments, and, ideally, the jojoyous consumption of a great deal of palm wine. Goli can be performed both as an entertainment and for the funeral of important men. The very characteristic, round-shaped “lunar” goli is surmounted by two horns. It was borrowed from the Wan for a celebration adopted by the Baule after 1900. Celebrating peace and joy, they would sing, dance, and drink palm wine. In the procession, the goli preceded the four groups of dancers, representing young adolescents. The goli would be used on the occasion of the new harvest, the visit of dignitaries, or at the funerals of notables. Boxes for the mouse oracle (in which sticks are disturbed by a live mouse, to give the augury) are unique to the Baule, whose carvers also produce heddle pulleys, combs, hairpins, and gong mallets.