Molo (Sacred Helmet Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Bobo of Burkina Faso believe that the earth was created by the supreme being Wuro. During the creation of man, Wuro also produced masks to act as physical representations of his son Duwo through which man could communicate with Wuro.

Seen as the most sacred of all masks, molo is used exclusively by Bobo blacksmiths in cults centred around Dwo's spirit (the kwele dwo, dwosa, and sibe dwos cults). Molo masks are used during cult initiation ceremonies, as points of sacrifice and prayer to Wulo and also during funerals of cult members.

Distinguishing Features

Common features among all molo masks:

  • Carved from a single piece of wood from lingue tree
  • Abstract form
  • Vertically pointing horns
  • Long rectangular or trapezoidal plank face
  • Face surmounted by spherical helmet
  • Rounded forehead extends beyond face
  • Round or rectangular eyes
  • Long, narrow nose
  • Small conical mouth
  • Small handle of plaited fibre beneath the chin
  • Short stick at bottom of mask
  • Mask enhanced with red, black, white geometric patterns

Regional variations (North Bobo; Tanguna):

  • Broad, flat face
  • Rectangular eyes
  • Face divided vertically by ridge
  • Short thick nose
  • Protuberant mouth placed high on face

Regional variations (Central Bobo; Kurumani):

  • Very broad, square face
  • Long nose divides face vertically
  • Mouth placed far down very near chin
  • Very broad and protuberant mouth
  • Face marked by slanting scarifications

Share this