Exhibition: Masked Festivals of Canton Bo, Southwest Ivory Coast
May 28, 2009 - March 31, 2010
The African masks that inspired painters like Picasso in the early 20th 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 western Ivory Coast, centered on the masked 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. With such protection and fertility, the whole community would prosper. Through rare drawings and photographs, along with masks from the Peabody Museum collections, Masked Festivals explores the different kinds of masked spirits and their performances.