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Africa Direct

Kurumba (Fulse, Kouroumba)

Location: Northern Burkina Faso
Population: Est 20,000

Arts: Knowledge of the Kurumba, who are split into northern and southern groups, is based almost entirely on their famous antelope masks, of which there are two types, one from each group. Those masks from the northern Kurumba are well-known to most collectors, and are called "adone." The antelope, according to Kurumba mythology, saved the life of the elder of the original clan. Antelope masks can be quite large, up to five feet, and feature a rather realistic looking antelope head. The striking horns are long and slender, soaring upward above the face and snout, which are also elongated, pointing downward at an angle. Curved ears sweep backwards, and the effect can be quite remarkable. The piece terminates in a slender, stick-like base. At the base one can find either a cap-like basket to fit on the head of the dancer, or a shield-like portion with holes for eyes. The masks with basketry bases are thought to be the oldest. The entire piece will usually be covered in polychrome paint, either in the diamond or triangular motives so associated with Burkina Faso, or a series of tiny painted dots. Metal sheeting is occasionally found. Antelope masks from the southern Kurumba are much more involved, and share elements found among their neighbors, the Mossi. The mask uses the familiar plank style of the Mossi, and a small round face. The incorporation of the antelope is much less obvious, and might be very small, with short tiny horns. In fact, the antelope can get "lost" in the overall Mossi-like construction. These masks are rare, or perhaps attributed to the Mossi in error. The functions of the "adone" are rather ubiquitous, but vital to the social lives of each village. Masks, the very embodiment of the deceased, are danced before and after funerals, and might even called by his name. They help to preserve the memory of the deceased, and venerate his achievements in life. It is a high honor to have a mask carved at one's death. Masks are carefully stored in ancestral shrines within each village. Though almost never encountered on the market, the Kurumba also carve large posts which support huts known as "sun shelters." They can be male or female, and offerings and gifts are made to them.

History: The Kurumba live to the north of Mossi territory in an arid portion of the Sahel. They are an ancient people, much like the Dogon, though precise dates are not possible. The northern Kurumba were never conquered by the Nakomse, and are culturally pure. The Kumumba living to the south were mostly assimilated by the Mossi during the 15th century, even adopting their language, Moor'e. Today they are rather autonomous, with traditions linked to their relatives in the north, but influenced of course by the sheer numbers of Mossi living around them.


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