This is an old karan-wemba (also called karansé) mask from the northern Mossi region of Burkina Faso, west Africa. The old Mossi kingdom consisted of several tribal regions that all owed allegiance to the Yatenga chief. This mask is carved in what is called Risiam style. The geographical range of the Risiam style is the regions of the old Mossi kingdoms of Zitenga, Risiam, Ratenga, Tema and Mane.

 

The main characteristic which distinguishes the Risiam style masks from other styles in Burkina Faso is the use of a hemispherical convex face that is divided through the middle by a prominent ridge, notched with triangular cuts. The Risiam style is a transitional style because it combines the strong vertical ridge and plank from Yatenga in the west together with the convex face from Kaya in the east. This is evidence of the intermixture of Dogon and Kurumba populations in the area when the Kurumba moved westward and displaced the original Dogon inhabitants.

 

As in all of the northern areas of the Mossi region, the masks in the Risiam area are used by Nyonyose clans, the most important being the Sawadogo or 'rain cloud' clan, the people who are said to be able to bring the rain with their rituals.

 

This mask shows some signs of use around the side holes where it was fastened it to the head of the wearer. Similarly, it has a patina inside the mask where it has been in contact with the face of the wearer. The exterior of this piece has signs of age, with significant paint deterioration and many small age cracks. Aside from getting the wood dated by scientific tests, getting an accurate age range of any older African mask can be quite difficult. Based on the above features of this piece, it would appear to have been made sometime during the 1970's.

 

Old Mossi mask $960 AUD. SOLD