Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fertility Festival at Canton Po – Ivory Coast

"All great things must wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

African Harvest and Fertility festival

The African masks that inspired painters like Picasso in the early twentieth century were only a small part of a larger cultural context and spectacle. The festivals of Canton Bo, located in the dense forest region of Southwest Ivory Coast, centered on the spirit forms of ancient ancestors who appeared in post-harvest festivals wearing carved masks and full-body coverings of straw, animal hide, textiles, and paint. Until the 2002 Ivory Coast civil strife, the Bo people invited the spirits each year to protect their village against unknown threats and to stimulate fertility for both women and crops.

During the festival, masked dancer’s bodies host (are possessed by) the spirits of entities such as Gu, wife of Zambie, a supernatural being. According to the tradition of Ivory Coast's Guro people, the horns symbolize Gu's legendary elegance, serenity and beauty. They also symbolize her spiritual powers and they can hold magic potions or medicines to protect human lives. With such protection and fertility, the whole community would prosper.

Through rare drawings and photographs, along with masks from the Peabody Museum collections, the Masked Festivals exhibit explores the different kinds of masked spirits and their performances.

On exhibit at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University… through April, 2010. Founded in 1866, the Peabody Museum is one of the oldest museums in the world devoted to anthropology and houses one of the most comprehensive records of human cultural history in the Western Hemisphere.

More Information here