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The Art of the Masks of Burkina Faso: A Spiritual Journey Between Colors and Symbolisms

An in-depth analysis of Bwa Masks and their Role in Celebrations: Between Tradition, Ecology and Spirituality

In 1984, Thomas Sankara renamed the former Upper Volta as Burkina Faso, “land of men of integrity,” symbolizing the rebirth of dignity after centuries of European rule. In this West African nation, the masks of different ethnic groups are revived on special occasions, as pointed out in the article by Silvia C. Turrin.

Bwa masks, used in rituals related to myths, are divided into two categories: the “flat” ones dedicated to the Do deity and the wooden ones with social significance. The white, black and red used in these works of art express deep symbolism, representing light, night and life force, respectively.

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The ritualistic dance of the masks takes on a crucial role during funerals, initiation ceremonies and requests for abundant harvests. Their ecological dimension, made from natural materials such as wood and leaves, emphasizes the inhabitants’ deep connection with nature and spirits.

Masks are not only artistic expressions but serve as a bridge between humans and the divine, restoring social, political and religious balances. The initiates who wear them become mediators between heaven and earth. Festivals such as Lumassan, Festima, Zandom’art and the Pouni Mask Festival offer opportunities to immerse oneself in this world of dances, traditional songs and colorful markets of local products.

The masks of Burkina Faso are living testimonies of a culture that embraces its roots, celebrating spirituality, nature, and ethnic diversity in one harmonious artistic expression.

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