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Baule Kplekple mask

Baule Kplekple mask
Baule Kplekple maskBaule Kplekple maskBaule Kplekple maskBaule Kplekple mask
Tribe: Baule
Country: Ivory Coast
Ritual: Goli
Name: Kple Kple
 
Materials: Wood, paint
 
Provenance: Ralph Proctor Gallery circa 1987. Suaga Collection 2010
 
Comments: A contact living in the Ivory Coast (Anne Marie Ballie) was confident that this mask originated from Sakassou and the form is well known in the country. Based on the length of time spent at the Proctor Gallery and the quality of its form I estimate the age to be circa 1970.

Kple Kple masks are marked by a high degree of stylisation and minimal detail. In some examples (as this one) ears, spiral horns, eyes inset with bits of mirror and contour decorations are found. The forward sweeping horns, beard and large, heavy wooden collar are all unusual details in this mask.

Kple Kple is a junior mask in the Goli dance. Goli is a day long spectacle that normally involves the whole village and includes the appearance of four pairs of masks. It can be performed both as entertainment and for the funerals of important men. It is striking but relatively “safe” with few complicated interdictions (like the mens sacred and powerful bo nun amuin mask performances), and because the dance is mainly entertainment it has attracted less resistance from Christian converts)

The four pairs of masks appear, two by two, in a fixed order. First a pair of Kple Kple, next a pair of Goli Glen, third a pair of horned face masks (Kpan Pre) and finally a pair of human faced masks with crested hair-dos (Kpan). Although each pair of masks comprises both male and female aspects, the first two pairs are essentially considered male in character and the second two female.

Kple Kple, the junior male masks are the first to appear. They are usually worn by young boys and their dance is said to be easiest – a contained but rapid stamping dance, the dancers body held upright, gliding on a cloud of dust and a blur of raffia cuffs. The pair is distinguished by colour; the male mask is painted red and the female mask is painted black (this designation is reversed in some villages).

Goli is a relatively new dance adopted from the Wan people less than 100 years ago. In the mid 1950’s it was estimated that it was danced twice a month in the Agba region. By the 1970's it was the most widespread Baule dance and by the late 1980's it had become the typical dance to represent the Baule, replacing all others, whether sacred or for entertainment.

Sources:

  1. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  2. African Art Western Eyes, S. Vogel, Yale University Press. 1997.
  3. A History of Art in Africa, Harry N. Abrams Inc, New York. 2001
  4. Spirits Speak: A Celebration of African Masks, Stepan & Hahner, Prestel, 2005
  5. The Tribal Arts of Africa, Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, Thames & Hudson, 1998