Yu (Family Mask)

Gu (Brave Female Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:
Description

Guro culture is famed for its ornate masquerades, both religious and secular. In religious ceremonies, masks are worn representing idealised ancestors.

There are three sacred masks usually on display, centring around the Zamble, a mythical elder depicted with antelope and leopard features. Accompanying Zamble are his grotesque brother, Zuali, and his beautiful wife, Gu.

Shown here is the gu mask, which takes its name from the translation, brave female. It is one of many yu masks worn by the Guro people when mourning deceased members of the community.

Gu reflects the Guro people’s beauty ideals. She is attractive, sings her father’s praises, and protects young wives against any ill will from their new family. The wearer of the gu mask will often act out and mock gender roles along with the wearer of the zamble.

All three yu masks are owned by respected Guro families. As well as being worn at funeral-like ceremonies, they are also donned in celebration, to resolve disputes and unmask wizards.

Distinguishing Features

  • Some masks have animals or bowls attached as superstructure
    • Others have two long horns or a single plait
  • Elaborate coiffure
  • Long face
  • Sloping, bulging forehead
  • Arching brows
  • Downcast eyes
  • Narrow nose
  • Keloid scarification carved on forehead and cheeks
  • Filed teeth
  • Often painted but older examples have colour worn off

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