TRIBAL AFRICAN ART

GURUNSI (GRUSHI, GOUROUNSI, JAMAN)

Burkina Faso, Ghana

 

Gurunsi is a collective term, which includes Gurensi, Kasena, Lyele, Nuna, Nunuma, Sisala, and Winiama. These ethnicities speak dialects of the Gur language, and it was the Mossi who gave the Gurunsi name to the tribes who live in the west and south of the Mossi plateau. Together they number about 200,000 people, the most numerous of which are the Nuna, estimated at 100,000. The Gurunsi live in a region where the tsetse fly, carrier of sleeping sickness fatal to domestic animals, is rampant. As farmers, the Gurunsi adopted the slash-and-burn system of cultivation. During the dry season they also organize large collective fishing expeditions and hunt. The people believe in a creator god, Yi, who withdrew from humankind after the Creation; in the center of the village a shrine is dedicated to him. Moreover, each clan shelters magic objects in a hut – these allow them to communicate with the vital forces of nature.

The masks represent the spirits of the bush. They are made in the shape of poles or in the form of animals. They are colored red, black, and white. The eyes protrude, surrounded by concentric circles, with a rather short snout on the animal masks, and a large and protruding mouth on the more abstract masks.  They are decorated with geometric motifs, and often repainted. The wearer of the mask may be invisible underneath the fiber skirt and must behave as the animal does, imitating its gait. The mask’s role is important during ceremonies at the end of initiation, at the funerals of notables, and as entertainment on certain market days.

Gurunsi statues kept inside huts or on family shrines are reserved for divination.         

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