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Burkina Faso - Mossi People

The Mossi [Mole, Moose, Mosi] are the largest tribe living in Burkina Faso. They number 2.2 to 3.5 million and are the only tribe of Inland West Africa to have a centralized governing body, in addition to clans and professional corporations led by elders known as zaksoba.

The Mossi King, the Mogho Naba, is seen as the face and voices of the people of Burkina Faso. While traditional kings and queens have vanished in Gambian social and political life, Burkina Faso’s Mossi King Mogho Naba played a crucial role in ending the 2015 standoff between the regular army and the State Guards. The King who played a neutral broker made sure the regular army and the will of the people prevailed.

Mogho Naba is the title of the reigning monarch of the Mossi ethnic group and reigns over a traditional kingdom that dates back to the 12th Century. The title means the “king of the world” in the language of the Mossi community.

The influence of the king in modern political matters is based on the fact that the centre of power in Burkina Faso, the capital Ouagadougou, lies at the heart of his kingdom – the Mossi Plateau. Out of respect for tradition, it is customary for powerbrokers seeking to establish a foothold in Ouagadougou to seek his symbolic approval.

The Mossi live on the central plateau traversed by the Nakambe. Currently, they account for half the total population of Burkina Faso. They are the descendants of conquering riders from Ghana in the 15th century, the Nakomes, who have integrated into several kingdoms, the most important of which remain those of Ouagadougou, home of the Mossi king (called Mogho Naba) and Yatenga, Of the original groups, the Tengabisi. The Tengabisi live in farmer communities (Nyonyosé) and blacksmiths under the authority respectively of the oldest man of the founding clan. The latter traditionally use and sculpt masks, as the first occupants of the land.

Lineages and clans of the indigenous tengabisi inhabitants own the masks, and only the large group of farmers and the group of smiths employ a variety of masks. Mossi sculptors are mostly famous for their polychrome masks. The farmers, “children of the earth” and descendants of the autochthones, still use huge masks; formerly, these masks were regarded as the seat of the spirit, but they might also represent the totemic animal of the clan.

Masks karanga - Museum of ManegaThe masks in the Mossi region usually represent animals, fantastic beings or important ancestors. All these entities are derived from the founding stories of each clan. Masks are not encountered in all regions of Moogho (Moosé territory); They are mainly among the Nyonissé, the first occupants of the Moogho and in some regions (Koustougou in the Center West, Manga in the South, Manéga in the North, etc.).

The masks which are part of animistic rites and cults play an important role in the life of the group. Thus, each chief of the Tengabisi clan owns a mask bearing the effigy of his totem. He keeps it at home or in the hut reserved for ancestor worship where it serves as an altar, receiving libations and sacrifices. It may be consulted by persons not belonging to the clan if it is known for its effectiveness in a particular field.

The masks appear at the funerals of the most important members of the community. They offer advice and protection to all members of the same clan. They are also the guardians of the crops. While the oldest masks do not participate in the secular manifestations.

C. Roy, who studied the art of the ancient Upper Volta, distinguishes three main styles with some sub-styles; All masks are cut in one piece of monoxyl wood, and reworked ie painted, engraved. They are complete only with the suit of fibers that hides the dancer equipped with various accessories. Songs and dances are inseparable from the output of masks except on solemn occasions such as the burial of a deceased. Stripped of their costume, the masks are carefully preserved and serve as altars, receptacles for the spirits of the ancestors.

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Page last modified: 04-06-2017 19:01:16 ZULU