This is a complex carving with a hornbill face mask topped with wonderfully shaped crocodile whose body is given in multi-colors graphic detail including the long tail, legs and prominent snout.The surface of the face mask is highlighted also by the use of red, white, and black geometrical forms. This is a fine example of the carving of the Nuna which was stylistically shared with the neighboring Bobo and Bwa peoples. Crocodile masks are also found among the Gurunsi and the Bwa. This composite mask comes from the Nuna people.
Large and finely carved masks such as this rarely come on the market and would be of good addition to any collection.
In the southwest region of Burkina Faso, numerous smaller groups of farming peoples have often been identified collectively as the Gurunsi. Included within this larger collective are the Nuna, Nunuma and Lela among others sharing certain common elements of culture and language. This is especially seen in their masks that are often difficult to tell apart as they share style and symbolism. They are primarily farmers with an uncomplicated social structure which in the past relied upon male elders to exercise social control. Their religion is based upon magical objects and figures that are kept in village and family shrines. The spirit that inhabits the shrine also is found in masks representing bush spirits.
Animal shaped masks have been identified as the primary sculpted art form of these people. This large crocodile mask attributed to the Nuna was worn on the face with the wearer looking out of the round eyes of the mask.The hornbill symbolizes knowledge and wisdom. The crocodile is related to the water spirit, guarantor of fertility and prosperity.
For similar piece see Christopher D. Roy & Thomas G.B. Wheelock,2007, LAND OF THE FLYING MASKS ART AND CULTURE IN BURKINA FASO. THE THOMAS G.B. WHEELOCK COLLECTION, Prestel, fig. 55
I have examined this piece and agree with the description
Niangi Batulukisi, PhD.