Whirling Spirits

Bobo & Bwa Masks


Spirit Masks of Burkina Faso

This video focuses on the most powerful Bobo and Bwa Spirit masks of Burkina Faso.  Danced at special harvest ceremonies, these masks are believed to restore the balance of the earth, so that the coming season of cultivation and harvest will be successful.  Bobo and Bwa masks are made of either natural or dyed sisal and feature carved wooden animal heads representing bush cows, antelopes, crocodiles and chameleons.  The maskers are seen to channel the spirits giving them superhuman strength.  Their flamboyant raffia bodies sweep the land and rid the village of evil spirits.

Bwa leaf masks, one of the oldest masks in Africa, are made from leaves of the sacred Karite tree. After the performance, the leaves must be returned to the sacred forest and burned. These masks often feature large crests of millet stalk and funnel-shaped mouths.   Zangbeto Voodoo masks from Benin effortlessly glide along the ground.  It is believed that they are propelled by the spirit and that there is no one inside. To prove this, a mask is flipped over revealing only a small black bird. This bird will be used as a sacrifice to bring two other masks to life.  Blood from the bird is poured over the head and penis of the small mask and miraculously its penis is awakened to the amazement of the crowd. The Zangbeto  Voodoo mask is believed to sweep the path of evil, and when spinning, can kill wrongdoers if it touches them.