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Baule Gbagba mask

Baule Gbagba mask
Baule Gbagba maskBaule Gbagba maskBaule Gbagba maskBaule Gbagba mask
Tribe: Baule
Country: Ivory Coast
Ritual: Entertainment
Name: Gbagba / mblo
Materials: Wood, oil paints
Provenance: Coll. Au Marche N'Golonina, Bamako, Mali 2007. Andrew Turley, SuagaCollection, 2007
Comments: This male mask is from a carved male/female pair collected at N'Golonina markets. They are both extremely light with good indications of use and a paint and carving style that matches examples in Ladislas Segy’s “Masks of Black Africa” indicating an age of circa 1970

Based on the broad features, painted cheek spots, style of coiffure and character of carving of this male mask (and the paired female), they belong to the group of Gbagba, Ajasu or Mblo. The masks from these groups have no ritualistic function. They are meant to entertain, and thus can be viewed by women as well as men. The Baule describe some of these masks as portraits of beautiful women or brave men.

Both the male and the female have almost certainly been carved by the same hand. An unusual feature is the style of coiffure which appears to be an evolution of a more traditional style and the eye slits carved beneath the painted, downcast eyes.

Photographs and an extract from the supplement: The Mask is Still Dancing in Ladislas Segy's "Masks of Black Africa" shows two masks that are remarkably similar in style, and were being danced in December 1974.

He wrote:

"On the next day, the prefect of Bouake, Mr Jean Koffi, invited us to join him at a celebration in his honour in the small city of Sakassou, about 2 hours drive from Bouake, famous for being the burial ground of the great Baule King Anougbre, and the depository of his treasures.

Several masked dances were performed. Two dancers wore reddish-brown masks with a black coiffure, probably carved by the same hand. The mantles of the two dancers were made of black cloth with white strips, and both wore raffia skirts and had their feet and hands covered".


  1. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  2. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  3. Masks of Black Africa. Ladislas Segy. 1976.
  4. Susan Vogel. African Art Western Eyes. 1996.