Lot 95
  • 95

Guro Female Mask, Gu, Ivory Coast

40,000 - 60,000 USD
50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood


Susan and Jerry Vogel, New York (inv. no. "56"), acquired in Bouake, Ivory Coast, in 1970


Rietberg Museum Zürich, Zurich, Die Kunst der Guro in Westafrika, May 9 - October 13, 1985; additional venue:
The Center for African Art, New York, January 9 - April 6, 1986
Museum for African Art, New York, Outside Museum Walls: African Art in Private Collections, February 5 - April 10, 1994


Eberhard Fischer and Lorenz Homberger, Die Kunst der Guro, Zurich, 1985, p. 169, cat. 68 (ownership listed under pseudonym)

Catalogue Note

In Guro religious practice, masks representing idealized ancestors are employed in the masquerades of family cults and secret societies.  The present mask represents gu, the wife/daughter of zamble.  Barbier (1993: 240) notes: "Gu is a beautiful woman: she sings the praises of [her father/husband] zamble, dances lasciviously and places the stones in the hearth of young wives, whom she protects from any ill will on the part of the family into which they have married."

Fasel (in Barbier 1993: 93, text to cat. 153) discusses the coiffure of the gu mask in the Barbier-Mueller Museum (inv. no. "1007-223"), which is closely comparable to the present mask: "the hair is piled on the crown of the head and gathered in a chignon held by small amulets of Muslim origin, called sene, which are made by sewing Koranic verses into quadrangular leather pouches."  For photographs of such amulets, and a woman wearing them, see Fischer and Homberger (1985: 31, figs. 23-24).

Discussing another gu mask in the Barbier-Mueller collection (inv. no. "1007-7"), acquired by Joseph Mueller before 1939, Deluz (in Barbier 1993: 93, cat. no. 154) elaborates: "Gu never leaves the sacred grove alone, rather, she is always accompanied by her husband/father.  Her teeth are filed in a zigzag pattern, like those of many Guro women born before about 1920.  Her coiffure is of a type called kowangi and represents a giant hornbill (Coraciformes bucerotidae) with a tuft of feathers."