This mask is a visually intimidating presence that harnesses the power of spirits from the wilderness as instruments of proprietary control in the realm of the town or village. Its visual affect was only heightened during performance. A Wan-zega mask from Burkina Faso, it performed policing functions. Appearing in groups at the onset of funerals, the masker brandished long flexible whips made from branches which they used to strike out at spectators. Their presence marks the uncertain period of transition when the deceased begins the journey into the spirit world. Later, the mask re-emerges in a celebratory mood, dancing to honor the deceased elder and to escort his spirit (sigha) into the world of the ancestors.


  • Title: Mask (Wan-zega)
  • Location: Burkina Faso
  • Physical Dimensions: 47 in. (119.4 cm)
  • Provenance: Ex coll. William S. Arnett, United States.
  • Subject Keywords: Mask, textile
  • Rights: © Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White
  • External Link: https://collections.carlos.emory.edu/objects/4250/
  • Medium: Wood, pigment, fiber
  • Art Movement: Mossi, Boulsa
  • Dates: 20th Century
  • Classification: African Art

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