Masked Festivals of Canton Bo

Masked Festivals of Canton Bo
Masked "spirit form" during a festival in Canton Bo, Ivory Coast, 1986. Photo by Monni Adams.

Southwest Ivory Coast

See the online exhibit

May 27, 2009–March 31, 2011

The African masks that inspired painters like Picasso in the early twentieth century were only a small part of a larger cultural context and spectacle. The festivals of Canton Bo, located in the dense forest region of Southwest Ivory Coast, centered on the spirit forms of ancient ancestors who appeared in post-harvest festivals wearing carved masks and full-body coverings of straw, animal hide, textiles, and paint. Until the 2002 Ivory Coast civil strife, the Bo people invited the spirits each year to protect their village against unknown threats and to stimulate fertility for both women and crops. With such protection and fertility, the whole community would prosper. Through rare drawings and photographs, along with masks from the Peabody Museum collections, Masked Festivals explored the different kinds of masked spirits and their performances.

Curated by Monni Adams