TRIBAL AFRICAN ART
The Bassa, one of the largest Kru-speaking peoples in the central coastal region and adjacent hinterland of Liberia, have been strongly influenced by the Mende-speaking neighbors, especially the Dan and Kpelle. Their economy is based on rice which they cultivate around small villages which have a population around two hundred. Bassa artistic tradition has been also influenced by their north-eastern neighbors, the Dan, who live on the Côte dIvoire. The Bassa have several female and male societies, including chu-den-zo, to whom gela (geh-naw) masks belong. Bassa carvers are famed for their gela masks worn during the no men's society ceremonies when the wearer of the mask moves with feminine and elegant grace. The masqueraders entertain the spectators when initiated boys return from bush camp, when important guests visit the village, and on other festive occasions. The dancer wears the mask, which is attached to a woven framework, on his forehead, and looks through a slit in the fabric which is part of the costume that covers his head and upper body. Because they are fixed on a framework, the interior of most such masks shows no signs of wear.
Bassa sculptures also bare similarity to Dan and display monumental and solemn qualities combined with skillful carving. Figures of dogs carved with a human face on the side, as well as stools, are known to exist, although the purpose of the dog statue remains unknown.
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