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Carved wooden mask for the Bedu cult
Nafana, Northern Ghana / Ivory Coast, late 19th century AD
There are numerous masking traditions in West Africa. Four in particular in northern Ghana / Ivory Coast - Gbain, Do, Bedu and Simma or Sikilin - have resisted external influences and retained their original traditions.
This Bedu mask has a tall, flat plank-like form with a 'head' at the lower end and struts extended upwards to form 'horns' and an open, circular form. Bedu masks are worn in male and female pairs at night during the Zaurau festival and bestow curative and fertilizing powers on women and children. The positive elements of health and fertility made the Bedu masking tradition more tolerable to colonial administrators. It is the only one of the four cults not linked to Islam, though Muslim peoples in the region are undoubtedly affected by the tradition.
R. Brarmann, Islam and tribal art in West A (Cambridge University Press, 1974)
H.M. Cole and D.H. Ross, The arts of Ghana-1 (University of California - Los Angeles)