Wanyugo (Funeral Helmet Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The wanyugo (also called wanyugu) mask, used by the Wabele society active within Southern Senufo sub-groups, functions mainly to detect and ward off the influences of witches, negative forces (dee bele) and bush spirits (nika'abele). The role of the wanyugo masquerade is to destroy evil spirits, to protect villagers from misfortune and disease and to guide the spirits of deceased Senufo elders during funeral ceremonies.

The Senufo believe that the wanyugo is the most threatening and violent of all masks (as evidenced by its aggressive appearance) and as such, when not in use, the masks are kept in dedicated huts away from the village.

Distinguishing Features

  • Zoomorphic helmet mask
  • Two-muzzled mouths
  • Hybrid hyena head & crocodile jaws (sharp teeth)
  • Pricked-up ears
  • Warthog tusks (tusks sprout from top and sides of the two muzzled mouths)
  • Cup carved on mask crest (to hold mask's magic substances (wah))
  • Chameleon(s) at the top of the helmet hold onto cup

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