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Yaure Lo mask

Yaure Lo mask
Yaure Lo maskYaure Lo maskYaure Lo maskYaure Lo mask
Tribe: Yaure
Country: Ivory Coast
Ritual: Public occaisions
Name: Lo
Materials: Wood, black pigment
Provenance: Coll. Andrew Turley, Douala, Cameroon 2009
Comments: With an age estimated at circa 1980 there has been some loss through wear, to the right hand horn, and the scallop that frames the face. A repair has also been made to the downward sweeping arch. Although from the Ivory Coast this piece was collected in Cameroon. Through discussions with Ann Porteous (a commercial gallery collector) I have found that recent conflict in Ivory Coast means it is common for traders to take pieces to more accessible markets (Cameroon and Mali) in an attempt to reach European collectors.

The Yaure are an ethnic group inhabiting the central region of Ivory Coast and their best known masks represent human faces supplemented by animal attributes. The masks belong to either the Je or Lo groups and for outsiders are hard to distinguish from one another. Not only are the differences between the occaision (Je or Lo) difficult to identify, but the names the masks bear also differ from village to village and clan to clan.

The Yaure people, 20,000 in total settled with the Baule to the west, Guro to the east and Lake Kossou to the north. They are divided into 3 main groups living in approximately 20 villages. Although they are influenced by their powerful neighbours, they retain a strong sense of identity and have evolved a characteristic and refined art.

With the aid of the masks the Yaure hope to influence supernatural powers, or Yu, that can either do harm to humans or ensure their welfare. The masks are considered emblems of Yu, extremely dangerous and to be handled with extreme caution (they are absolutely to be kept out of sight of women).

Deaths that jeopardise the social order is the principal occasions for the appearance of the masqueraders. By means of their dance they restore the communities social equilibrium and accompany the deceased into the ancestral realm.

This mask, like most Lo masks, is primarily black while Je masks are often painted. The face is complimented by scarification between the eyes at the bridge of the nose and from the eyes to the typically fluted rim of the face. The close-set eyes marked by their flat arches and horizontal incisions begin the lines that sweep down into a straight narrow nose and gentle, well-formed lips. The mask is contoured by a zigzag band which is typical of Yaure pieces and underscores the harmonious appearance of the mask. The single downward curving arch (which has been damaged and repaired) is likely to be a simplistic representation of a horn (blah the he-goat) or a bird (hornbill or woodpecker).

Yaure masks inspired the Baule to develop a type of mask of similar design and they also demonstrate stylistic influences of the Guro (with whom they are related).


  1. African Art Western Eyes, Susan Vogel, Yale University Press, 1997
  2. African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection, Prestel, 1998
  3. The Tribal Arts of Africa, J.B. Bacquart. 1998.
  4. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  5. Masks of Black Africa. Ladislas Segy. 1976.