« Back

Bamana Kore mask

Bamana Kore mask
Bamana Kore maskBamana Kore maskBamana Kore maskBamana Kore mask
Tribe: Bamana
Country: Mali
Ritual: Initiation
Name: Kore
Materials: Wood
Provenance: Coll. Moulaye Lebass Sanogo Segou region Mali 2006. Andrew Turley, Bamako Mali, 2007
Comments: Based on the level of insect damage, patination and the amount of wear around the edges of the multiple holes drilled in its ears I estimate this masks age is circa 1970.

Among the Bamana, men and women may join a number of initiation societies or associations (jow). The most senior of these is called kore and is concerned with the most esoteric knowledge of humankind's place in the universe and our relation to the creator God, Faro. The kore is further divided into several groups, which are identified with animals and which recreate the characteristics of those animals as metaphors for the virtues and vices of humankind.

Dancers promoted common decency by mocking outrageous and irresponsible behaviour. Performances featured both puppets and masqueraders who wore wooden face masks in the shape of the lazy or wily animals they portrayed. The monkeys are capricious and mischievous, the horse is hard working, the hyena is cruel and gluttonous, and the lion is proud, powerful, and wise. The performances of kore masks are intended to mock human life and the physical world and to emphasize that members of kore are able to transcend the physical world and exist on a more spiritual level

Masqueraders wore these masks with a net costume, from which they dangled paraphernalia such as calabash shells, iron, fruit husks, and would enter the village riding hobby horses. Their antics were bizarre, mimicking sexual behaviour, breaking implements, eating anything they could lay their hands on, even human or animal waste.

The hyena masks associated with the Kore from the Segou region generally have an elongated, angular face and pointed ears with a rectangular mouth opening. Due to its rounded forms this example may be the work of a carver from the Sikasso region.


  1. Iris Hahner-Herzog, Maria Kecskesi, Laszlo Vajda, African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection, Prestel, New York. 1998:240
  2. Mary Jo Arnoldi, Bamana Art of Existance in Mali, Museum for African Art, New York, Museum Rietberg, Zürich, edit. by Jean Paul Colleyn, 2003:77
  3. A History of Art in Africa. Harry N. Abrams. 2001.
  4. African Sculpture Speaks. Ladislas Segy. 1975.
  5. Masks of Black Africa. Ladislas Segy. 1976.