Gu Mask Ivory Coast
In Guro culture, distinctions are made between masquerades that are the focus of cults and those that are more secular in nature.
A sequence of three sacred masks centers around Zamble, a mythical male being whose form fuses antelope and leopard features.
He is in turn complemented by his beautiful wife, Gu, and his wild, grotesque brother, Zuali.
Such representations are owned by certain families that use them as the loci of sacrificial offerings proposed by diviners
to improve their well-being. In contrast, other Guro mask forms,
which serve only as sources of entertainment, are designed by individual performers.
The Zaouli mask, used in the dance, was created in the 1950s,
reportedly inspired by a girl named “Djela Lou Zaouli” (meaning “Zaouli, daughter of Djela”).
However, stories on the origins of the mask are varied, and each mask can have its own symbolic history.
Each Guro village has a local Zaouli dancer (always male), performing during funerals and celebrations.
The dance is believed to increase the productivity of a village that it is performed in,
and is seen as a tool of unity for the Guro community and by extension the whole country.
Sacred Guro masks, delicately crafted, and colorful are used and honored during sacrificial gatherings, funerals, and celebrations.
They honor protective spirits called “Zuzu” and these spirits were housed in shrines.
The Guro tribe was originally known as the “Kweni”,
but from 1906 – 1912 they were brutally colonized by invading French colonials.
The dominant Baule people of the region subsequently named them the Guro tribe.
The Guro peoples are governed and regulated by a council of elders,
and each main family has representation on the council.