The Bete ethnic group, originally from the Ivory Coast, has a patriarchal society, in which agriculture is the main livelihood. This population is characterized by a deep religiosity and superstition, so that the animal sacrifice is still practiced. The Bete masks show the influence of the cultures close to them, such as the Guro. Originally, masks were designed for war. In fact, they were used to instill fear in the enemies, while also providing a magical protection to the wearer. At the same time, these masks were used for funeral ceremonies.
Bete Nyabwa mask
The ethnic group Bete is well known especially for this kind of mask, nicknamed Nyabwa. It has exhaggerated and distorted somatic features: protruding forehead, projecting lips. Those who wore this masks had the purpose to scare and intimidate their potential enemies. Characterizing the Bete style there are also the horns curved towards the inside, distributed along the perimeter of the face.
This type of mask for warriors is called ‘gre’. Who wears it must purify and bring amulets to protect against the power that the mask emanates. Due to its aggressive force, this object is considered able to effectively combat spells and sorceries, establishing a line of union between the material and the invisible.
Nyawa Bete mask
The curved horns come out from the flat base of the mask, joining all together, creating a kind of protective grille. At the same time, these projections give a strong expressiveness and sense of aggression. The large nose and the bulging eyes are covered with metal studs, now oxidized.