After the Wê mask in Ivory Coast: preliminary study about its origin, symbolism and value as element of communication

Victòria Medina, Théophile Koui

Abstract


The mask is a sign of cultural identity par excellence in the Wê society of the Ivory Coast and plays a very important role in traditional ceremonies. Its meaning, if we frame it in the ritual social and religious context, can only be understood by this particular African community. The mask constitutes the bridge between the visible and the invisible world. It is unique – and used as a specific language in its diverse representations– it makes communication between both universes possible. It is the connection between the world of the Gods and human beings. Beyond the religious or magical motivations, the mask is a receiver of vital forces; its wearer, assumes an identity different from his own which is expressed by means of long standing ceremonial rites. In the present preliminary work we will discuss: (1) the specificity of the concept of the mask among the Wê, (2) the esoteric and religious role of the Wê mask as an element of communication and (3) its relation with the collective beliefs and the cult to the ancestors.

Keywords


côte d’Ivoire masks; wê ceremony; oral tradition

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1344/co20093235-242

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