Goli (Entertainment Mask)

Goli Glin (Father)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Baule of modern day Ivory Coast perform a number of dances for village entertainment; one such performance is known as goli. A recent import from the Wan ethnic group (believed to come into use among the Baule after 1910), goli is a day long celebration usually performed during the funeral of high ranking and respected community members. Sources point to the goli dance providing not only entertainment but also protection for the village in which it is performed.

Baule goli performances consist of four red/black, male/female dance mask pairs appearing in a pre-defined order. According to Susan Vogel, the masks appear in the following social order:

  • First, a pair of disk masks called kple kple (the junior male; representing youth and weakness),
  • Second, a pair of animal helmet masks called goli glin (the 'father' or ancestors; representing strength, amwim bush spirits and forest buffalo),
  • Third, a pair of horned masks called kpan pre (the junior female; representing girls),
  • and Fourth, two human-faced masks with crested coiffure called kpwan (the senior female, representing goli glin's wife, the ideal woman).

Goli glin (the second pair of masks; also called goli glen) represents the mythological bull headed bush spirit Guli. Goli glin helmet masks are used in rituals designed to cleanse the village of witches (the mask is associated with death, renewal and protection). Worn horizontally over the head, the masquerader performs fast, strenuous but controlled stamping movements under the weight pf a heavy raffia costume.

Because of its powerful protective qualities, women and children are discouraged from staring directly at the mask. When not in use, goli masks are kept in the bush.

Distinguishing Features

  • Very heavy in weight (to support weight of raffia costume)
  • Circular face
    • Narrow treatment to face
  • Flat forehead
  • Spherical eyes
    • Eyes placed in concave section of face
    • Tubular eyes carved in high relief
  • Single hole at tip of nose through which feathers attached
  • Gaping mouth (masquerader sees through holes in mouth)
    • Mouth projected forward
    • Protruding tongue
    • Teeth carved around edge of mouth
  • Raised central crest
  • Animalistic features
    • Combines head of bush cow, horns of gazelle, mouth of crocodile
    • Inward curving horns
  • Red, white and black oil based paint (red pigment symbolises blood, danger, and aggression)
  • Edge of mask has holes drilled through

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