Bete Mask


Artwork explanation

About 600.000 people live in the southwestern part of the country, between the Akan ethnic groups to the east and the Gouro tribe to the north.

Historically they were hunters, but nowadays they also farm. They also have linked to the market economy and much of their effort is devoted to the cultivation of cacao and coffee.

They aim to maintain a harmonious relationship between nature and the ancestors who are responsible for the welfare of the tribe. Today the vast majority still follows their traditional African religion, believing in a creator God Lago, but do not pray to or worship him.

Instead they seek help from many lesser spirits who are supposed to have supernatural power to help them, or give protection--spirits of their ancestors, spirits that inhabit trees, rivers, rocks, etc. they observe many customs and taboos and make sacrifices of eggs, chickens, cows, etc.

Bete carvers are renowned for one particular type of face mask, the Gre or Nyabwa, which has exaggerated, grimacing distorted features a large protruding mouth, facial protuberances, elongated nose, and globular eyes set beneath.

In earlier days, this mask presided over the ceremony held when peace was restored after armed conflicts and it participated in sessions of customary justice. This type of mask was also worn to prepare men for war; the masks offered magical protection by instilling fear and terror in potential enemies. Nowadays, it is worn for a variety of ceremonies, including entertainment dances.

The Bete have carved elegant statues, stylistically influenced by their neighbors the Gouro.

Distinguishing features:

Bete carvers are renowned for one particular type of face mask, the Gre or Nyabwa, which has exaggerated, grimacing distorted features, a large protruding mouth, facial protuberances, bulging forehead, elongated nose, with nostrils sometimes extending to each side of the face, and globular or bulging slit eyes set beneath a high-domed forehead carved with a medium ridge.

Male and female figures are displayed in shelters or shrines to represent the founders of the community. They incarnate the conceptual ideal of spiritual perfection and moral strength and its connection to physical beauty. Other smaller statuettes may have been carved to represent spouses from the other world, a tradition inspired by Baule.


Artwork Description

Used in rejoicing parties.


Exhibition history

CAMA Gallery | Cote dIvoires Peoples | Exhibition | Cote d Ivoire

Tehran Gallery

Cote d Ivoire

solo exhibition, 07 December - 27 December


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Bete Mask - 1900

Carving on wood 37 x 20.5 x 12.5 cm CoA no. 1812041337087

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