Ivory Coast elephant mask
Detail: Wood carved elephant mask from the Ivory Coast
Masks and the Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast Elephant Mask. The Fêtes des Masques, (Festival of Masks) held in November in the region of Man is one of Ivory Coast’s biggest and best-known festivals. Competitions between villages are held in order to find the best dancers, and to pay homage to the forest spirits embodied in the intricate masks. Another important event is the week long carnival in Bouaké each March. Masks are a prevalent art form in Ivory Coast. The variety and intricacy of masks created by the people of Ivory Coast is rivaled by none. Masks have many purposes. They are used mostly for representative reasons; they can symbolize lesser deities, the souls of the deceased, and even caricatures of animals. They are considered sacred and very dangerous; as such, only certain powerful individuals and families are permitted to own them, and only specially-trained individuals may wear the masks. It is held to be dangerous for others to wear ceremonial masks, because it is believed that each mask has a soul, or life force, and that when a person’s face comes in contact with the inside of the mask, the person is transformed into the entity the mask represents. The Baoulé, the Dan (or Yacouba) and the Senoufo are all known for their wooden carvings.