Burkina Faso is a small, landlocked country north of Ghana and south of Mali and Niger. Economically, it is one of the four or five poorest countries in the world. Culturally, it is extremely rich. In part this is because so few people from Burkina have become Muslim or Christian. Many of the ancient artistic traditions for which Africa is so well known have been preserved in Burkina Faso because so many people continue to honor the ancestral spirits, and the spirits of nature. In great part they honor the spirits through the use of masks and carved figures. Many of the countries to the north of Burkina Faso had become predominantly Muslim, while many of the countries to the south of Burkina Faso are heavily Christian. In contrast many of the people of Burkina Faso continue to offer prayers and sacrifices to the spirits of nature and to the spirits of their ancestors. The result is that they continue to use the sorts of art that we see in museums in Europe and America.
Burkina Faso art
One of the principal obstacles to understanding the art of Burkina Faso, including that of the Bwa, has been a confusion between the styles of the Bwa, “gurunsi”, and Mossi, and a confusion of the Bwa people with their neighbors to the west the Bobo people. this confusion was the result of the use by French colonial officers of Jula interpreters at the turn of the century. these interpreters considered the two peoples to be the same and so referred to the Bobo as “Bobo-Fing” and to the Bwa as “Bobo-Oule.” In fact these two peoples are not related at all. Their languages are quite different, their social systems are quite different, and certainly their art is quite different. In terms of artistic styles the confusion stems from the fact that the Bwa, “gurunsi'” and Mossi make masks that are covered with red white and black geometric graphic patterns. This is simply the style of the Voltaic or Gur peoples, and also includes the Dogon and other peoples who speak Voltaic languages.
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