Photos Creatures of the night, these carved wooden Bobo plank masks represent owls and a snake.Left: A Serpent Mask leads a Buffalo Mask and two Owl Masks to the ceremonial square. Their voluminous raffia costumes are fashioned by the blacksmith caste. Right: The chameleon mask, called N’Nan Gui, enacts a pantomime with slow reptilian grace. A powerful totemic creature, the chameleon is traditionally associated with change and the transformation of an individual from the mortal state to that of the spirit. Playing a major role in funeral rites, it serves as a messenger of the after-world.Leaping with explosive energy, the antelope mask bounds through the village using a pair of long sticks to mimic the animal’s stride. Its prescribed dance movements are considered entreaties to the creator god Wuro to bestow good crops, health, and prosperity on the community. Ritual dancing intended to purify the community is held prior to both planting and harvesting.Two antelope masks, called Kaan, rest between dances. Exhausted by their athletic exertions, they are cared for by ritual guardians who revive them with millet beer.At Bobo funerals, the masks confront the lost souls of the dead in a series of ritual dances in order to drive them into the afterworld. Funeral maskers are a blur of explosive energy as they spin, twirl and jump their way through a series of acrobatic dances.Bobo funeral masks parade to the loud accompanyment of horns and drums literally designed to wake the dead and remind them they have outstayed their welcome in the living world. When the exorcism of the lost souls is complete the village is purified.A Bobo mask of painted wood and sisal fibers from the village of Gossina dances vigorously to ensure the success of the harvest.The tall headpieces of Bobo masks from the village of Gossina are held in place by the maskers clenching an interior bar with their teeth. These masks represent a link to the animal kingdom, incorporating the stylized designs of powerful animals. In particular, the crocodile (far left and far right) has magical powers as he inhabits both water and land.Entertainment masks made of colorful fibers produced by the use of aniline dyes come from the village of Gossina. Created for amusement, they are permitted to leave the village to dance at events, while sacred masks are reserved for important rituals and must remain within the village.Traditionally carved wooden Bobo animal masks are embellished with costumes made of sisal fibres dyed with aniline dyes to achieve vibrant colors.Entertainment masks made of colorful fibers from the village of Gossina are created for amusement. They are permitted to leave the village to dance at events, while sacred masks are reserved for important rituals and must remain within the village. Their wooden heads represent three powerful horned animals, and, at far left, a crocodile.A sisal Mossi Nafo bull mask from the village of Pilimpikou is traditionally dyed with charcoal. In order to rid the village of negative forces, the mask whirls frenetically to kick up the dust where it is believed that evil spirits lie.A recently carved and painted spirit mask with a voluminous raffia body spins and dances furiously, kicking up clouds of dust.The Wan Zega, or Tall Red Masks, are worn by the Boulsa Mossi in eastern Burkina Faso. Made of bark fibers from the sacred false mahogany tree, the masks dance aggressively, carrying long whips to drive away evil. They may appear at funerals and initiations, and also as entertainment on market day.The twirling Wan Zega Tall Red Mask presents a fearsome and dramatic display of whirling layers of sisal fibres designed to drive away evil. The eerie high-pitched “voice” of this mask is produced by sucking air through a green leaf stalk clamped between the teeth of the masker.The leaf masks of the Bwa are considered to be the most sacred as they embody Dwo, son of the creator god, and enable a direct communication with the god. These masks can restore the balance of the land that is destroyed by cultivation. Right : This leaf mask is accompanied by a “talking” drummer who communicates messages to the crowd through the rhythm, tone, and nuance of his drum, mimicing human speech.The fan-shaped crests atop the leaf masks are made of grass, millet stalks, or feathers, supported by porcupine quills. The body of the mask is made from the sacred leaves of the Karite tree which is found in the sacred forest.The most ancient style of mask, the Bwa Dwo is made from the sacred leaves of the Karite tree. Hundreds of fresh leaves are topped with crests of straw, millet stalks or hornbill feathers. At the end of the day the leaves are returned to the sacred forest where they will be burned – they must be returned to the spirirts after their performance.Millet-stalk masks from the village of Balavé arrive in procession wearing the totem colors of the four main Balavé families.Balavé millet-stalk masks dance to the accompaniment of rapid drumming. Their vibrant sisal costumes are enhanced by the use of colorful aniline dyes, adding to the drama of the mask’s perfomance.