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THE BWA: HISTORY AND ART
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Burkina Fasso


In its last book on the towns of the Stop Volta (1987), Cristopher Roy emphasizes the distinction between bwa and the clown, that in spite of maintaining certain characteristics common, like the absence of a centralized system and the cult to Do, does not descend from he himself ancestor. With one hundred twenty-five thousand members in Mali and one hundred seventy and five thousand individuals in Burkina Fasso, the Bwa is surrounded by the Bambara to the north, the clown to the west, marka dafing to the east and gurunsi and lobi to the south. They are divided in chaste endogámicas: agriculturists, hereros and griots. Agriculture is assured by the masculine work, since the women only make complementary workings of episódica form. Griots works the cotton, making the weave and the tinted one. Like the blacksmiths, cultivate some own fields, but this activity is marginal. The blacksmith is also the local enterrador and he is in charge to excavate wells. Also he is the man of contact with the Earth: that is to say, he has mediating an excellent paper as in case of conflict, is an intermediary with the supernatural world. Griot has a fundamental social function in the public celebrations.
Bwa lacked a centralized political organization and each town was directed by an advice who grouped the men of more age of each lineage.

As of Century XVIII, bwa underwent the aggressions of the near bamana empire and after the collapse of this one, those of the empire peul of Muslim obeciencia. These incursions supposed the ruin of the populations, the looting of the harvests and the slavery. The arrival of the French in 1897 ended the conflicts between the different empires. As the French based their control on paíse in the support of the kings in exercise, the domination of bwa did not stop. Once consolidated their authority, the French overthrew the kings and imposed their own organization. The taxes, the imposition of the culture of the cotton and the end of the communal fields lead to a revolt between 1914 and 1916 that almost completely annihilated to the town bwa.

The spiritual life of bwa is based on the cult to Do and the ancestors founders of the clans. Do takes part in the agricultural rituals and the funerales. Bwa has the notion of a called God Difini, creator of the world and the men, to those who it left leaving its Do son them. According to the legend bwa, Difini had been hurt by a woman who crushed mijo with her mallet. Do represents the forest and the nutricias forces, source of life of the plants and the fields. He appears symbolized by means of a denominated iron rhombus alive or linyisa. The man who maintains it produces a vibrant sound when doing to turn it on his head. Vasija in earth put is conserved in one in you edge of a forest and the fields of culture. A mitológica legend bwa narrates the encounter of its ancestors with beings like the hyena, the serpent and the dwarf that have had a decisive paper in their lives.

The head religious labie, primogénitco of the founder of the town, is the Earth Mr. The villagers make masks with leaves that incarnate to Do. Only are wood masks between bwa of the south, nieguegue (\ “escarificados \”), that very take elaborated marks on the body. These masks represent animals: antelopes, wild boars, the wild buffalo, the monkey, the crocodile, the serpent, the fish, the bird, the insect and some human beings and spirits of the forest that take supernatural forms. The mask takes on the face, holds by a heavy cord that the dancer maintains in the mouth. Crowned with a table with painted geometric drawings of alive colors, the mask takes the name of the personified animal and it is only distinguished by the form of the horns, the snout and the eyes bulging, being the equal rest in all the masks. One of these, hombo to only takes the blacksmiths it and represents the rooster with \ “their tip in rhombus \” and the cleared crest that its head crowns. Hombo is the spirit who protects the blacksmiths. One tells that after sacrificing two children, the blacksmiths of a town only could save of their pursuers thanks to the spirit of Hombo, that helped them to cross a marsh. Every year east event with the public exhibition of many roosters is commemorated.

Some abstract masks appear in table form, appearing in the base a smooth, round or made oval face, adormanda in the superior with geometric reasons and in form of checkerboard specially painted part for black and white. The dancing sight through the hollow mouth; the eyes are two great concentric circles.

To the southwest and the northwest, bwa lives in the proximities on the clown and has almost identical masks. As it happens to the clown, the purification rites take place at the end of the dry station: the masks in the forest are prepared in the morning early. The dressed dancer as the Do incarnation no longer can speak, for being the word attribute of the men. \ “the human community reintroduce in the cycle of the nature and in this way renews its forces, to similarity of the vegetation that appears again every year \” (Capro, 1957, mentioned by Roy).
The wood masks are reserved for the family and the clan and its use in the cult of Do are quite recent. Sometimes it happens that those in favor of the masks of leaves and the followers to the wood masks face to each other because first they reproach to the seconds betraying the tradition. The masks participate in the burials, the end of the mourning and the phase of initiation, but the present rivalries between clans no longer favor the social cohesion that guaranteed the masks. These masks of tables are inhabited by supernatural forces that act in benefit of the clans that have them. The reasons represent symbols related to Do and the history of the clan. Bwa uses he himself type of divination objects that nunuma and winiama: they carve statuettes, canes of divination with the curved end. The fortune tellers use brass or adorned copper bracelets with figurillas raised that represent the spirits. Also are these elements in most of the ethnic groups of Burkina Fasso.





Other african ethnic groups available: BANTU , BAMBARA , ZULU , CHOKWE , BEREBER , MOSSI , FANG , BAMILEKE , DAN , DOGON , BAULE , SENUFO , SONGYE , KUBA , PENDE , SUKU , LUBA , GURO , BWA , BAMUN

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