This helmet mask belonged to the male society
responsible for performing various rituals that
maintained social stability and political order.
Originally, the mask would have covered the
upper portion of the dancer’s head. A covering
of cloth or raffia fibers would have been attached
to the holes along the rim and would completely
disguise the dancer’s identity. The elaborate
coiffure has been intricately represented, as has
the keloid scarification that was considered a
symbol of prestige. Certain marks, like the rows
along the temple and where the eyebrows meet
the nose are representative of the Baule tribe and
would have been instantly recognized as such.
With the aid of such a mask, the people hoped to
influence supernatural powers, an extremely
dangerous spirit that can harm humans; but can
also ensure their survival. Due to their influential
powers, these masks were handled with extreme
caution, then only during the ceremonies, and
were absolutely kept out of sight of all women.
While today the cultural stigma attached with this
piece has faded, its power is still as vibrant as it
ever was. This mask, once imbedded with such
significant strength, still resonates an energy
accumulated from years of worship. Holding this
marvelous carving, a privilege formerly bestowed
upon only the highest members of the social
order, and then only for the most important
ceremonies, remains a privilege today. In our
hands, the strength of the yu continues to flow
through our entire being.