Bambara Suruku Mask - Korè Mask
Culture: Bambara (Bamana, Banmana).
Date: first half of the 20th century.
Size: h. 42 cm (16 ½ in.).
Provenance: ex collection Alex Bernand, Paris.
Extra: The Bambara (Bamana, Banmana) form the largest ethnic group within Mali. The triangle of the Bambara region, divided in two parts by the Niger River, constitutes the greater part of the western and southern Mali of today. Their traditions include six male societies, each with its own type of mask. Initiation for men lasts for seven years and ends with their symbolic death and their rebirth. Nearly every Bambara man had to pass through these societies in succession, until, upon reaching the highest rank, he had acquired a comprehensive knowledge of ancestral traditions.
An expressive ceremonial mask used in the male initiation rituals of the Korè (Kworè, Koro, Kworo) society, the last and most significant of Bamara men’s associations, and represents a hyena. The formal clarity of this mask must provoke different interpretations because of its very openness of abstraction. The nature of the animal lends itself to such latitude of reference, for spotted hyenas are distinctly odd animals and readily provide apt metaphors for all that is immoral, rapacious, and senseless. These are human shortcomings left behind as Bamara men achieve the ranks of Korè.
Photo credit: © Jean Godecharle.
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