3 Mar 2014 - 18 May 2014

Sacred Wood

Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

Initiation in the Guinean Forests

In numerous African cultures, initiation constitutes a key stage in the life of each individual and of the community. In Western Africa, this apprenticeship is known as Poro.

Around every seven years, the start of the initiation is announced by the appearance of costumed and masked people within the village.

The initiation includes a period of seclusion in a secret place at the heart of the forest. The young people are removed from their family environment and taken to a sacred place. 

At the end of the initiation, a mask devours the children, engulfing them in its mouth. When it spits them out, the scarifications indicate that they become adults. 

Several componants - animal fur, metal - may be added to the wood to decorate and reinforce the power of the mask.

This is the best known of the Toma masks. The lack of mouth is it is intrinsically linked to secrecy

Bakorogui masks indicate the presence of the ancestors in a generic manner. The creased or lowered eyes are considered as a sign of beauty and discretion.The open mouth indicates that, the mask may speak during its appearances.

Credits: Story

Production — Hélène Fulgence, Directrice du développement culturel du musée du quai Branly
Commissaire — Aurélien Gaborit, responsable des collections Afrique au musée du quai Branly, responsable scientifique du Pavillon des Sessions, musée du Louvre
Conception de l'exposition en ligne — Cécile Renault, Adjointe au Directeur du développement culturel

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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