Yu masks, which are supposed to have been invented in antiquity and are owned by the oldest families in northern Guro communities, are highly revered and the recipients of sacrificial offerings. The most powerful yu mask is gye, considered the highest judicial authority. They can judge disputes, negotiate peace treaties, and make momentous decisions on behalf of the community. They appear in public when the community celebrates an important event or at the funeral celebrations of honored family members. The exceptionally large Dallas gye mask is an excellent example of the type.
Gye are thought to be creatures that in ancient times belonged to the beasts of the forest and mountains. According to legend, a Guro hunter brought the creatures into the village to receive offerings-perhaps to ensure a successful hunt and appease the spirits of the animals that were killed. Eventually these apparently friendly beings were immortalized in sculpted wooden masks and costumes, dance steps, and musical accompaniment.
Talented, athletic dancers perform the gye masquerade wearing a massive knotted fiber costume that is used to extinguish the burning coals on which they dance.(30) The masks, which have both human and animal features, typically display the hairline of humans and the muzzle and horns of a bush cow or other large animal.
This mask was repaired with sheet metal at some time during its decades of use.
The Arts of Africa at the Dallas Museum of Art, cat. 56, pp. 170-171
30. Fischer, Eberhard. Guro: Masks, Performances, and Master Carvers in Ivory Coast. Zurich: Museum Rietberg, 2008. pp. 142-157.
The Dallas gye mask is reproduced in fig. 126, page 147. It was formerly in the collection of Loed van Bussel.
Roy, Christopher D. “Dallas Museum of Art.” African Arts 26, no. 2 (April 1993). p. 78.