Sacred Wood

Initiation in the Guinean Forests

By Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac

Untitled, Anonyme - Masque Angbaï, Début du XXe siècle, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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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.

Guelemlai, initié toma, Jean Fichter, 1953, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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Around every seven years, the start of the initiation is announced by the appearance of costumed and masked people within the village.

Masque anthropomorphe Angbaï, Unknown, Début du XXème siècle, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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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. 

Untitled, Anonyme - Masque Angbaï, Début du XXe siècle, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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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. 

Masque anthropomorphe Angbaï, Unknown, Début du XXème siècle, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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Several componants - animal fur, metal - may be added to the wood to decorate and reinforce the power of the mask.

Masque anthropomorphe Angbaï, Unknown, Début du XXème siècle, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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This is the best known of the Toma masks. The lack of mouth is it is intrinsically linked to secrecy

Masque anthropomorphe Bakorozai, Unknown, Début du XXème siècle, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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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.

Masque-autel des Kouranko au rayon, Masque-autel Kouranko, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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Poster of the exhibition 'Bois sacré, Initiation dans les forêts guinéennes', 2014-03-04/2014-05-18, From the collection of: Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
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Credits: Story

Production—Hélène Fulgence, Directrice du développement culturel du musée du quai Branly

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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