Photos Lunar masks belonging to the Bwaba Society come out only in the dark of night when the new moon rises. Their role is to purify the village, ensure a good harvest, and promote the fertility of young women.Lunar masks appear in painted textile bodysuits, some with elaborate cowrie-shell-studded headpieces, and others with rope-fringed headdresses. The cowrie shell is considered a powerful symbol of female fertility.Lunar masks usually come out in April to thank the gods for the fertility of young women. They appear in the dark of the night during the new moon.Seated are three masks with elaborate cowrieshell- studded headpieces, and one mask featuring long antennae used for harnessing the power of the moon.A leaping lunar mask wears a black and white striped body suit and a rectangular hide mask, decorated with cowrie shells, symbolic of female fertility.Maskers wearing rope-fringed headdresses whip their heads in circles, splaying the long fringes of their headdresses.Lunar masks appear in painted textile bodysuits, some with rope-fringed headdresses which swirl dramatically as they dance. These masks come out in April to thank the gods for the fertility of young women.The antennae-like projections on the lunar masks communicate with the power of the moon and reveal a direct relationship with the ancestors. The maskers use a long staff to vault high into the air; the belief is that they must project themselves toward the moon, into the invisible world, to capture its power. The masker is attached by a cord to a guardian who protects him from leaving the earth.Whirling Yoruba Gelede masks come from as far away as Benin and Nigeria to share their cultural masking traditions with other maskers at the annual Dédougou Festival of Masks.Through comedic antics, Yoruba Gelede masks remind the audience of appropriate social behaviour and the many unacceptable taboos. They communicate the hierarchical order of the world and the importance of respect and tolerance.Yoruba female elders come to pay homage to the the highly respected Gelede maskers, preparing them for their performance.The horned Gyela lu Zauli mask, worn by the Guro people of the Ivory Coast, spreads its arms wide as it entertains the crowd. With its bright colors and female features, it is considered the representation of feminine beauty, although, ironically, the masker is always male.The Guro Gyela Iu Zauli mask appears at funerals and village ceremonies. The dancer performs in short, quick, rhythmic steps, almost too swift for the eye to see, while holding his torso completely still. He follows the ever increasing rapid music of tom-toms and flutes to achieve a mesmerising, superhuman performance.