Lot: 30

Large zoomorphic board mask "bedu" (male type)

Côte d'Ivoire, Nafana / Kulango / Hwela

Provenance Size Hammer price
Munich Private Collection H: 47.8 inch 2400 EUR

wood, colour pigments, rest.

According to Bravmann, the "bedu" cult originated in 1930 in Oulike, a Nafana village, and quickly spread to the neighbouring communities, whether these were voltaic-speaking like the Nafana and Kulango or Mande-speaking like the Hwela (Hahner-Herzog, 1997, p. 249).

The masks made their appearance during the annually and month-long new year’s celebration, as well as during harvest festivals and funerals.
The masquerade serves to purify and unify the community, promoting social order and fertility and warding off disease.

Throughout the Nafana month of the Bedu moon, male / female masked pairs appear at night, modeling ideal behavior and satirizing inappropriate actions. The male mask type usually had horns and the female had round discs above the face. The mask was worn in front of the face and was complemented by a floor-length, shaggy raffia costume. During the month-long dance, they were bathed once a week and coloured at the end with charcoal ("bidie") and kaolin ("hyire") mixed with shea butter.

"Bedu" probably goes back to the earlier "sakrobundi" cult, which was first mentioned by the British military doctor R. A. Freeman in 1888/89. "Sakrobundi" remained influential until well into the 1930s. After that, the cult was suppressed by the French and British missionaries and eventually ceased to be practised, or, as the Nafana elders of Oulike put it, it was "put to sleep" (Phillips, 1996, p. 452 f.).


Hahner-Herzog, Iris, Das Zweite Gesicht, Genf, München, New York 1997, p. 249, cat. 58 f. Phillips, Tom (Hg.), Afrika, Die Kunst eines Kontinents, Berlin 1996, p. 452 f. Cole, Herbert M. & Doran H. Ross, The Arts of Ghana, Los Angeles 1977, p. 131