Collection

“Sun Mask”

Sun Mask

Bwa, Burkina Faso.
Late 20th Century,
Wood, Pigment, 19" x 18".

Reportedly used in Bwa dance performances to celebrate the farming season, this style of mask is commonly called a "sun" mask. With its circular design and radiating, triangular pattern of dark brown and white pigments, it can easily be seen as depicting the light of the sun. The concentric circles used for the eyes and mouth, as well as the very familiar use of sharp, jagged teeth, are known characteristics of masks created by the Bwa of the Burkina Faso region.

Recent scholarship, however, proposes a different view about the origin of this particular style of mask, leaning towards the scholarly assertion that it is a modern creation. The idea that every culture's artistic style has remained generationally unchanged and void of the individual artist's unique vision is a theory many scholars no longer ascribe to. Though descended from a long tradition of masks, this particular style is believed to be the creation of a specific village in the late 1980s as a product to support the village. Albeit a recently created style, it is based on traditional ancestral designs. This piece clearly creates a connection between today's indigenous contemporary African art and culture and its artistic roots.

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