Baule Goli Glin Helmet Mask & Costume

  • Tribe: Baule
  • Origin: Sakassou, Ivory Coast
  • Approx Age: 1970's
  • Materials: wood, raffia, goat skin other leaves, rope
  • Dimensions cm: mask 69 x 23
  • Ref. Number: 0978
£2200.00

A beautiful example of a Baule Goli Glin helmet mask, fully adorned with raffia, palm leaves  and a full goat hide, wrist and ankle adornments and a raffia skirt.  This was found in a village between  Yamoussoukro and Bouake called Sakassou. The mask itself was carved  approximately in the early 1970’s, the raffia and green leaves around the neck (now brown) are replaced each time its out for ceremonial dance, an absolutely stunning authentic piece of Baule artistry.

Throughout history, Africa’s forms of artistic expression have been marked by continuous change. In some instances, new traditions have arisen to meet local needs inspired by ideas introduced by outside sources. In others, historical practices lost the immediacy of their appeal and were discontinued. Such processes underlie sculptural forms that have become integrally associated with Baule culture.

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Photo taken by Josh Peter

A form of artistry that remains a vital source of entertainment in Baule culture is the complex of masquerades known as goli. The goli dance came into use among the Baule after 1910, when it was acquired from the neighboring Wan. Wan sculptural forms and lyrics were faithfully preserved and integrated into a completely Baule ideological framework. Four different masquerade pairs perform in a hierarchical sequence. The sculptural component of the next to last of these, goli glin, fuses the head of a bush cow with the horns of a gazelle.

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This mask constitutes the second in a series of four masks still performed as entertainment by the Baule peoples of central Côte d’Ivoire. The dance series is known as Goli, and this mask as Goli Glin. The mask is worn with an ample costume of woven green palm fronds that emphasizes the association with wild nature. There is no possible way that this costume could be preserved: Baule men always make them just before they are used, and this seems to be part of the meaning of the performance.
During the performance, this mask is one of a pair of identical masks that emerge from the forest together, where bush spirits abide, to enter the village. The long horns, open jaws and teeth are supposed to inspire fear. While women and children are allowed to see these masks they avoid getting too close to them. In contrast, when Kpan, the fourth mask in the series, and the senior female mask, appears in the form of a beautiful female face, women surround it and dance with it.

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The Goli is a day long Baule festival which includes four types of masks: the father goli glen which is represented here; his wife kpwan; the circular and horned kplekple; and in some villages, goli dandri, which is similar to kplekple only much larger. The festival includes the four masks, music played on special instruments and palm wine. It is a relatively new dance for the Baule, who adopted it from their neighbours the Wan people less than 100 years ago.

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By the 1970’s Goli was the most widespread Baule dance and by the late 1980’s it had become the typical dance to represent the Baule.

The Wan, originators of Goli are a small Mende speaking tribe related to the Guro. Most Baule villages acquired Goli some time between 1900 and 1910, either from a neigbouring village or by sending people directly to the Wan to purchase and learn the dance.

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Kplekple the junior male masks are the first to appear worn by young boys and the dancing is easiest (male masks =red and female masks =black). The second pair of masks to appear are Goli Glen, the senior male masks. They are barely distinguishable from each other, have a large antelope skin on their back and combine antelope and crocodile features. The masker does a rapid vigorous stamping dance that is wild looking but never uncontrolled.

This Goli Glen mask displays the typical red, white and black oil based paint as a stylistic and iconographic feature. The circular face bordered in white, with black and white spherical eyes reflects the width and shape of the thick wooden collar. Black inward curving horns with white tips that touch (and white tear drops at their base) reflect the bush cow or buffalo label often applied to the Goli mask.

Sources:

  • Met Museum
  • African Art, Western Eyes. Susan Vogel. Yale University Art Gallery. 1997.
  • Candice Ranelli, Ralph Proctor Gallery. Pittsburgh. 2002.
  • A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  • African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.