African Artwork at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero

Image for African Artwork at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero

Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero is a luxurious riverside retreat in the heart of the bush on the edge of Chobe National Park, home to the world's largest remaining population of elephants. The lodge also has a large collection of African artwork and here is a overview of some of the items they have on display and also some insights into the origin and history of these beautiful items.




Society: Baule,Material: wood, paint

The masking tradition in the Ivory Coast is probably more vibrant today than it was in the past. The masking tradition was foreign to the Baule, but over the years they adopted the art of masking from their neighbours the Guro and Yaore, with whom their masks also share stylistic similarities. Wooden sculptures and masks allow a closer contact with the supernatural world. Masks are always worn by men. Baule masks correspond to three types of dances, the gba gba, the bonu amaen, and the kplekple. The gba gba mask is Guro in origin. It is used at ceremonies of women during the harvest season. It celebrates beauty and age, which are expressed through fine features. Double masks represent the marriage of the sun and moon and also represent twins, whose birth is a good sign. The bonu amaen mask protects the village from external threats. The very characteristic, round-shaped "lunar" kplekple mask is surmounted by two horns. It is used for celebrating peace and joy. The kplekple face mask represents junior male and female figures and is danced opposite the kpan masks which represent the senior members of the society. Baule masks usually appear in the goli festivals, intended to entertain and to maintain social control.

Plank mask (Bedu)

Bedu Mask3

Region: Ivory Coast/Bondoukou, Society: Nafana, Material: wood, paint

The Bedu masquerading tradition is limited to the region of Bondoukou. Bedu masks appeared among the Nafana in the 1920's. Bedu masks are danced by athletic young men with agility and grace. They can be up to three metres tall. They usually appear in male and female pairs during month-long harvest festivals. The masks keep disaster, illness and infertility at bay, and increase the community's sense of well-being. Circular horns decorated with a triangle pattern mark the masks as masculine. The female counterpart is usually characterized by a more elaborate disk-shaped superstructure. 

Plank mask

Bobo Mask3

Region: Burkina Faso, Society: Bobo / Bwa, Material: Wood, pigment

Burkina Faso is best known as the country of masquerades. Most masks from here are made from the softwood cotton tree, easy to carve and carry. Masks from each family perform once a year in festivals linked to burial, funeral, initiation ceremonies, or other family rituals. These masks are repainted annually before the performance, and then the fibre costume is attached. Bwa masks represent mythical zoomorphic characters like the owl, bush cow, hawk, butterfly, rooster, bird, crocodile, antelope, warthog, wild buffalo, monkey, serpent, fish, as well as some human beings and bush spirits, which take on supernatural forms. Surmounted by a board with geometric designs painted in vivid colours, the mask bears the name of the animal it personifies. Only the shape of its horns differentiates it, while the muzzle and protruding eyes remain the same basic structure. The mask is worn in front of the face, attached with a thick rope, which the dancer holds in his mouth. The eyes are large concentric circles and the dancer looks through the open hole of the mouth. These masks are thought to be inhabited by supernatural forces which act to benefit the clans that possess them. 


Maasai Gourd3

 Region: Tanzania / Kenya, Society: Maasai, Material: Calabash, leather, beadwork

The Maasai people produce these gourds by hollowing out a fruit from the squash family. A hot corncob is inserted into the hollowed out calabash and turned round and round. This action causes the inside of the gourd to blacken, and it causes the outside of the gourd to obtain a rich ochre patina. It is interesting to contemplate how the Maasai people stitch their gourds together when they crack or break, keeping in mind that there are no ready-made needles available to them and that the gourd is as hard as a dried pumpkin shell. The Maasai use these gourds to contain a mixture of milk and blood which is an important source of sustenance to them. This mixture also has an important role to play in the Maasai people's customs, being used in ceremonies and rituals.


Mossi Croc3

 Region: Burkina Faso, Society: Mossi

For more than five thousand years, masks have been a characteristic African art form and a central feature of African ceremonial and social life, they validate political authority, initiate youths into adulthood, protect communities from witchcraft, assist the spirits of the dead, teach social values, and simply entertain. 

 Pygme Hat

 Pygme Hat2

Region: Cameroon, Society: Pygme, Material: Raffia/Chicken Feathers

Traditionally worn by Village Chiefs in the Cameroon region of central Africa, Pygme hats have since gained popularity with interior designers, and are often used as an striking accessory for the home. Beautiful bird feathers are carefully hand sewn onto a raffia fiber base/basket that splays out into a huge circle. Feathers are considered rare objects of beauty and a symbol of opulence and wealth associated with the positive qualities of birds. When not in use, the Pygme hat can be neatly folded in on itself for easy storage. A perfect example of fine, unique and skillful weaving, from Central West Africa.

For more information, please see Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero on our website.