Kore (Animal Mask)

Ngon (Baboon)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The social, economic and spiritual lives of Bamana men, in Southwestern Mali, are governed by six initiation societies collectively known as Dyow (also called Jow, sing. Dyo or Jo). The six societies are N’tomo (also called N’domo), Komo, Nama, Kono, Chi Wara and Kore. A Bamana man must pass through all six initiation societies respectively to be considered a rounded man with full insight into ancestral teachings and traditions.

Each initiation society has its own associated mask type (mostly zoomorphic, i.e. based on animal forms)—this includes the Kore ngon (also called gon, n'gon koun) mask said to represent a baboon. Of the six Bamana initiation societies, Kore represents the highest level. Its members have achieved the required level of knowledge to be reborn into the community as fully formed men.

Ngon masks are worn by masqueraders that enter the village compound to announce the start of the Kore initiation period. The masqueraders mimic the promiscuous, uncivilised and rowdy behaviour of monkeys, introducing humour and satire to celebrations while also demonstrating the undesired characteristics of boys (who will soon become men).

Ngon masks are also worn during sogo bo 'youth association' puppet performances and precede chi wara masqueraders to announce upcoming celebrations.

Distinguishing Features

  • Dark wood
  • Domed forehead overhanging eyes
  • Stylised face
  • Face is flat, slightly concave, and elongated
  • Square eye holes
  • Prominent nose bridge
  • Nostrils typically depicted as rectangle
  • Long, doglike snout

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