Misikun (Cow Helmet Mask)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


Six initiation societies, known as dyow (sing. dyo), govern the social, economic, and spiritual lives of Bamana men. The six societies are n'domo, komo, nama, kono, chi wara and kore. A Bamana man must pass through each initiation society before he can be considered a rounded man with full insight into ancestral teachings and traditions.

Another association found within the Bamana is the ton youth association. After circumcision, Bamana boys and girls are assigned to an age-group or vocational ton association (agriculture youth associations are called ngonson ton, the association of young entertainers is called koteba ton, future farmers are organised into chi wara ton, and hunters into donzo ton). Elders instil knowledge of the ways of life of the Bamana and their traditions through these associations.

Every year, ton members perform dances during the annual Checko festival. Donning masks and costumes, performers satirise various aspects of Bamana society. Called misikun (or misiba kun, meaning 'cow head', if the masquerade represents a female), a cow masquerade dances during the Checko to symbolise the importance of generosity among the Bamana. Through song and dance, tribute is paid to generous men of the community. The dances also highlight the importance of protecting those who are generous.

Distinguishing Features

  • Domed helmet mask
  • Mask represents a bovid
  • Two horns on top of mask
  • Horn form a circle
  • Round face
  • Two round eye holes
  • Black colour

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