Gurunsi Antelope Mask

The mostly zoomorphic masks were provided with rich, polychrome, geometric incised decoration, the meaning of which, known by initiates, varies from village to village, from clan to clan.

Gurunsi Antelope Mask

Tribe: Nunuma / Nuna or Bwa

Origin: Burkina Faso

Approx Age: Second half of 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 42 x 14

Ref. Number: 1791

£875.00

Description:
a very endearing Gurunsi antelope mask, a zoomorphic face mask (antelope), wood, polychrome (red/white/black) painting, boundary grooves mostly red, perforated around the rim, cord to hold the mask with the teeth. Muzzle with prismatic profile and asymmetrical decor. Eyes conical, accented with concentric circles. Curved, black antlers bent forward in the upper part with red and white grooved decoration, left part punched twice. Flat, erect ears.

Provenance: Ex-Swiss private collection, Solothurn. Acquired in situ (1990). Ex-Gallery Walu, Switzerland.

History

The term Gurunsi does not designate a single ethnic group but has become a collective term for a number of ethnic groups (including Nuna, Nunuma, Léla, Winiama, Sisala and Kaséna), who are settled in southern Burkina Faso and on the border with Ghana and from the agricultural economy, fishing and hunting.

The mostly zoomorphic masks were provided with rich, polychrome, geometric incised decoration, the meaning of which, known by initiates, varies from village to village, from clan to clan.

Mainly bush spirits were depicted in the form of real or imaginary animals, who watched over a family, a clan or the entire community and ensured fertility, health and prosperity.

The masks appear on different occasions: funerals, initiation, cleaning of the village before the onset of the rainy season. During performances, great value is placed on the interpretation of the character of the spirit the mask represents. Here the antelope (green) and bush cow (red) masks waited to perform. When the musicians began to play, on drums, flutes and balafons, the music that accompanies the bush cow dance, the bush cow got up and marched through the audience and danced in a distant stubble field far from the audience and musicians. At the end of the performance, the audience responded with laughter and much applause. When asked why the bush cow performed so far away, an elder explained, “You know, cows are very stupid.” The hemp costumes are dyed brown with natural dyes and green, yellow or red with German commercial dye purchased in the large market in the city of Bobo Dioulasso.

Further reading:
Chaffin. Roy, Christopher (2007). Land of the Flying Masks. Munich: Prestel.

References: Land of the Flying Masks, Christopher Roy – University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. https://africa.uima.uiowa.edu/topic-essays/show/6?start=12

Gurunsi Antelope Mask

Bush buffalo and antelope masks, Nyumu family, Bwa artist, the village of Boni, Burkina Faso, 1983. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

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