Zazaigo (Antelope Headdress)


By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The zazaigo (pl. zazaido) headdress, used by Mossi associations of young men, functions mainly to honour deceased members of the community during kuré funeral ceremonies, held during dry seasons when farming activities are halted. The role of the zazaigo masquerade is to communicate with the spirits of ancestors to let them know that the deceased community member was an honourable man and should be allowed to pass through to the realm of the spirits.

The Mossi believe that animal heads represent protective spirit animals that watch over and protect the community from evil forces. As such, zazaido headdresses can represent a number of different animals including:

  • Roan antelope (wid-pelego)
  • Red bush antelope or duiker (nyaka)
  • Wild duck (laidri)
  • Rooster (noraogo)
  • Songbird (liuli)
  • Human (nineda)
  • Buffalo

NOTE: "The headdress takes its name from the smaller animal that faces the rear when the crest is worn. Thus, the zazaigo with a roan antelope on the front and a nyaka on the back is called zazaig-nyaka"2

Distinguishing Features

Common features among all zazaido:2

  • Carved of a single piece of light wood
    • Grain of wood runs vertically on headdress - parallel to necks of animal heads
  • Length = 30 cm
  • Height = 20 cm
  • Width = 8cm
  • Zoomorphic headdress
    • Usually composed of two stylised animal heads facing in opposite directions
      • Large roan antelope (wid-pelego): appears facing forward / slightly larger than the head that faces the rear / large, strong, crescent shaped horns / spiral markings on hornsNOTE: Sometimes wid-pelego the only animal on headdress with smaller rear animal replaced by short vertical & narrow slab
      • Smaller red bush antelope or duiker (nyaka): shorter, S-shaped horns
      • Smaller buffalo: heavy horns
    • Short slab between two heads
    • Decorated with geometric patterns burned into the wood
    • Painted with red, white, and black earth colours
  • Headdress mounted on a small pedestal or slightly concave base
    • Base pierced with at least three transverse holes to secure cap
    • Base unpainted
    • Small indigo-dyed cloth cap sewn to base
    • Strands of twisted cotton cords attached to cap (30 - 40 cm long)
    • Heavy cloth chin-strap

Regional variations (Kwaltangen):2

  • Complex crests
  • Two animal heads, usually oriented vertically
  • Small round eyes burned into face of antelope
  • Central stab decorated with vertical zigzag shapes
  • Broad areas coloured red and white

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