Guere Luwesegle Mask (SOLD)
- Tribe: Guere
- Origin: Western Cote D'ivoire
- Approx Age: late 19th - early 20c
- Materials: wood, feathers, medicine pouches,brass bell, human hair, bush cat fur.
- Dimensions cm: 30 tall x 22 wide not including fur
- Ref. Number: 0344
An old Dan Guere Luwesegle mask from late 19th – early 20th Century. Luwesegle is the villagers give this mask, which means “bush ghost mask”. This mask is bought out during ceremonies for every generation’s celebration to chase / drive evil spirits away and purify the village.
This mask is adorned with a brass bell at the top of the mask, decorated with “poro society” markings, the bell in my opinion has a beetle look to it but without a head. There are feathers, human hair, material years of re-applied pigment and a fur from a bush cat. This piece originates from a village in between Kouibly and Bangolo, Western Ivory Coast, (based on information of previous owner).
This mask was authenticated by one the best, if not the best Guere enthusiasts in the USA, I am not including his name as I do not have permission but you will know who I am talking about. I am including the diagnosis / appraisal of this mask-
“Your mask is important and most interesting. Some of my thoughts:
It is old. I’d guess 1st quarter 20th c. possibly older.
It is indeed Kran/Guéré, probably closer to the border with Liberia than from further into Cote d’Ivoire where the masks get rather grotesquely bizarre.
I have no translation or knowledge re: “luwusegle”. That doesn’t mean it’s not correct, but it is possibly a multiple transmission of an English/French notation which probably came from a field collector who may even have been Mandingo. So who knows. “Lu” in some Kruan languages means “top” or High” meaning important, not height. “Gle” simply is a generic Mande term for a Bush Spirit (mask), like “Ga” or Geh”, not a Kruan term. I don’t know what the “wuse” refers to.
The overal form is that of the “Gah Greh” general type. It certainly had its own publicly known name and another secret Poro name.
It is a Poro mens’ society mask, as revealed by the red color. The mask is therefore a Kwi (Bush Spirit) mask from the Kwi society (the Kruan term for the Poro (also called Boviowah).
It was from the Elders’ level of Poro, as evidenced by the presence of brass on the head. The brass was cast and hammered by an experienced brass caster, and is a crotal bell. The spiral motif of the 10 surrounding circles and the central ones are actually easy to do in brass casting, made by rolling the (lost) wax into a thin spaghetti strand and then spiraling it. This design is seen on objects from throughout the region, although since the Dan made so many objects they sometimes seem to be a Dan motif.
The head has the usual medicine packets. I can’t tell if the feathers are vulture feathers or chicken. If vulture, then it would have had a witch-hunting role and possibly a judgment function. Despite not having an articulated jaw it may yet have had a role as a speaking judgment mask. If chicken, then it means the Spirit required chicken sacrifices.
The typical tubular eyes are rimmed with white, which, like extra eyes, enables it to see supernatural phenomena that mere humans cannot see, such as evil and witch magic, giving it the ability to detect the bad guys and bring them to justice, thereby protecting the village.
The multiple coats of paint attest to many generations of usage. It may once have had more natural pigments applied, such as kaolin, etc. Since Guéré masks evolve over time and therefore change/assume or even lose certain roles , I wouldn’t be surprised to see evidence of different colours underneath the white and red.
There are attached dreadlocks of real human hair. This may have come from a powerful Kwi Elder or Bodio who died, or from a victim. Human hair does not always signify such power, as I have some Wobé masks that are secular in nature yet have dreads.
The teeth appear carved from bone, and are unusually long.
The long strips of bush cat fur are still in pretty good shape given its age.”