Guro chief

Guro People : The Unbeatable Mask Makers

The Guro people of Côte d’Ivoire are also referred to as Gouro, Dipa, Lo or Kweni. They are known for their rich mask traditions. With colourful, vibrant, and precise attention to detail.

We know that the people were ancient hunters. They are also agricultural people, who speak Mande. The community speak the language of the Mande branch. A Niger-Congo African language. Guro people live in the valley of the Bandama River in Côte d’Ivoire.

This clan is a  larger Mande ethnic group in West Africa. In terms of lifestyle, they practice African culture. You can find them mainly distributed in the Haut-Sassandra and Marahoue regions. With Betes on the west and Baules on the east.

History Of The Guro People 

Guro people
Guro mask dancer

 

Guro initially came from the north and northwest. Driven by Mande invasions in the second half of the 18th century.

In the beginning, the Guro refer to themselves as Kweni. The title “Guro or Gouro” was bestowed on them by their neighbours (Baule ).  Guro is a Baule African name culture. Their culture is nearly similar to Baule as a result of intense relations.

Based on the record, the population is between 800 to a million. Do you know that the Guro people are direct descendants of Sundiata Keit? The pre-colonial and West African Mali epic hero?

After the breakdown of the Mali empire, they migrated southward to Ivory Coast.  To escape the Mandinka expansion during the 13th and 16th centuries.

Substantial interaction with neighbouring countries in the east is also important. It puts the ancient Luo people at the heart of a complex history. A time of immigration, trade, and war. It shaped their artistic African traditions. Also, it formed the artistic beliefs of their neighbours and the region more greatly.

Relationship Between Guro And Baule People

Guro chief
Guro chief with his dynamic staff

 

Today Guro’s eastern neighbours are Baule and Asante. The Akan language is the medium of communication between the tribes. The military expansion of the Akans began in Ghana in the 17th century. This act prevented Guro’s eastward movement.

The Akan immigrants settled along the east bank of Lac de Kossou and incorporated into Baule.  Subsequently, cloth trade between the Guro society and the Baule led to ethnic ties. furthermore, it strengthens their cultural ties.

Recently, Baule knitting is more famous than Guro knitting. It is believed that the Guro taught Baule people knitting. Historically, these two groups also developed loom pulleys. Simple machines decorated with figures and animals. The Asante people adjacent to Baule in eastern Ghana, also have a vibrant history of loom carving and weaving.

Most of the Baule woodcarving art has influenced Guro. Baule has, in turn, impacted Guro’s traditional lifestyle.  Primarily in the textile and clothing sectors.

Religious Beliefs Of Guro People

Guro mask dancer
Guro performer

 

Their religion involves many cults and gods. A master of the soil makes sacrifices to the earth. This is for the benefit of the village and the residents. We also have fortune-tellers in each village. Before we make important decisions, we seek his opinion.

Luo people are very traditional. No compromise believe in their ancient African culture. They have secret societies of men and women, and people will join these societies.

Male society is Je and the female society is called Kne. These secret societies wear masks. An important mask of the Guro people is Zamble. Guro mask also depicts Gu’s soul, the wife of the supernatural creature Zamble.

These masks, coloured or brown and black, are composed of intricate details. The Zamble mask is considered to be the most beautiful of Guro masks. It is also the most popular collectable mask.

In other words, in the Guro culture, there is a difference between the masquerade party. One is focusing on the cult and the other is on a secular masquerade party. Because of our nature, I went to other villages in Africa to find the meaning of God and his existence.

A sequence of three sacred masks revolves around Zamble. A mythical male whose appearance combines the characteristics of an antelope and a leopard.  Nevertheless, his beautiful wife Gu, his wild and incredible brother Zuali enhances his potency.

Several representative masks are owned by specific families. The mask is used as a place of sacrifice. Usually proposed by the fortune-teller to improve their well-being. Other forms of Guro masks are only authorities of entertainment. They are manufactured by personal entertainers.

About Guro Mask

Zamble mask of guro
Zamble mask

 

Guro masks are usually embedded with hidden information of spiritual importance. The craftsmanship of the Guro national symbol image is related to the land and agricultural practices. This is also due to their African ancestors. It reflects the symbolic meaning of the animals on the mask.

Masks are objects of pleasing and dignified beauty.  They appear in various social and spiritual rituals. The faces are of two types: anthropomorphic and zoomorphic.

Among all animals, Guro honour five. Antelope, hyena, leopard, crocodile and elephant. These animals mainly live in tropical forests inhabited by 200,000 tribes.

What is the symbolism of the four animals on the mask? The antelope is loved for its elegance and speed. According to a folktale, it is a belief that the mythical antelope teaches us to cultivate.

Hyenas are considered to be big animals that live on land. We see the hyena as smart and resourceful. Leopards symbolize strength, bravery, and enterprise. Crocodiles are regarded as the king of the swamp. Guarding the water bodies found in the backyard of the tribe.

Elephants are considered elegant, kind, powerful, royal and loyal. Every animal mask depicting the Guro God is always worn during the ceremony. Certain masks describing antelope and porcupines are not allowed to be seen by women.

Again, these animals are believed to represent the connection between humans and the spiritual world.

Differences Between Guro And Baule Mask

Baule art and Guro art are very similar and sometimes difficult to distinguish. However, there are subtle differences between the two styles. For example, Guro masks usually have longer faces.  Likewise, the raised forehead and nose bridge of the Guro mask forms an S-shaped pattern.

An additional hallmark of the Guro mask is the essence of the tattoo marks on their bodies. Guro tattoo marks replicate the scars on tribal men. These marks are frequently cut on the forehead and cheeks.

Next, the Guro face has a small mouth and sharp teeth. The hairdo on the mask is carefully crafted with geometric patterns. It is mainly divided into five parts. Subsequently, most Guro masks have large wooden collars. Neckbands also assist to portray the raffia jacket worn by dancers.

One final difference between the Guro mask and Baule is that every human mask often adds animal features. It can be the ears of an elephant, the horns of an antelope, or the superstructure of a bird’s head.

This trend of adding animal features to masks is so great. Guro sculptor’s best mask is a mix of different animal characteristics.

Zamble Mask: The Most Intricate Mask

Zamble mask combines the attributes of hyena, antelope, leopard and crocodile. Like all Guro masks, they can be coloured, brown and black. The Zamble mask has the most intricate carving of all Guro masks.

Highly skilled attention and detail are a must-have. Deliberate repetition of the ridges on the mask is a faithful reproduction. The amazing thorough rendering of the zamble mask makes it bold and daring. This realistic quality is highly regarded by art lovers.

At  Je ceremony, the zamble mask is the first to emerge. All Guro masks have concealed tribal meanings and some are fatal to women. But their incredibly subtle texture makes them overwhelming.  Guro mask depicts some of the best artworks in Africa, and the zamble mask is the most coveted.

Male And Female Cults

A male secret society is responsible for the social, administrative and judicial organization of the tribe. It is also responsible for making decisions and protecting tribal members. Je society guards and uses all the Guro masks.

Women also have a secret society called Kne. They are more of a religious group.

Zaouli Dance

Zaouli is a piece of popular music and dance practised in the Guro community. It is the  Bouaflé and Zuénoula provinces of Côte d’Ivoire. A tribute to feminine beauty. Zaouli was inspired by two masks: Blou and Djela.

The second name is Djela lou Zaouli. Meaning Zaouli, daughter of Djela. In an exhibition, this approach combines sculpture (mask), weaving (clothing), music (band and song) and dance. African dance is of great significance to the people. That is why there is a dance in every African country.

We have traditional dances from South Africa, traditional dances from Nigeria, cultural dances from Ghana, school dances and dance from Columbia

There are seven types of Zaouli masks. Each one translates a specific legend. Carriers and practitioners include sculptors, artisans, instrumentalists, singers, dancers and celebrities. (guarantors of community customs and traditions).

The dance is educational and entertaining. Packed with Aesthetic functions. It provides environmental safety and communicates the cultural characteristics of its bearers. Also, it promotes integration and an atmosphere of togetherness.

Amateurs learn under the supervision of experienced practitioners. Messages exist during musical performances and learning.

The community organizes two to three performances a week. This help to ensure the viability of Zaoli. As the guarantor of tradition, traditional chiefdoms also play a key role in the process of dissemination. Inter-village dance competitions and festivals provide further opportunities for review.

Economy

Although men’s main occupation used to be hunting. Now, the Guro are farmers. Their subsistence crops include plantains, rice, and yam. Cash crops include coffee, cocoa, and cotton.

They also practice rotating farming. While men clear the fields, the women do most of the other works. In the late 20th century, some of their public lands were replaced by industrial plantations.

In the southern part of the Guro People’s Territory, arboriculture includes palm wine extraction. While in the northern part, cola oil and nuts are exchanged for dried fish from Niger. The exchange of daily necessities in the market is usually carried out by women. Other heavy goods are traded by men.

Before abandoning their villages during the colonial period, the men cleared the land. Women planted crops such as cocoa, rice, cotton, yam, and coffee according to the season.

Adding to the masks trade,  the ancient Luo people also carved figures. These figures often stand with arms bend. While their faces are similar to a mask. The smaller figure is an elegant female head mounted on a Guro loom.

Administrative Head

The people are guided by the oldest member of the community. Villagers also form village committees. In the traditional Guro society, there is no position of a village chief. Nonetheless, a prominent clan leader is considered outstanding.

He is consulted when resolving disputes and represent the village in front of outsiders.

Trezan, the owner of the land, distributes the land to the people and makes sacrifices. The village is composed of several descendants. It is the basic social and economic unit of Guro society.

Conclusion

The mask-making of the Guro tribe is very popular. Their most popular mask is the zamble mask. This is a complex and beautiful mask that leaves a smile in the hearts of art collectors.

Although the people use to be hunters, they are now known for their agricultural practices. The design of their traditional clothing also makes them unique.

Historically, Luo people are ruled by chiefs. He represents and presents the village to tourists. Part of his job is to resolved disputes, and organize several festivals during the week. This help in maintaining the tradition.

In terms of religion, they believe in traditional African religions. Unlike other parts of African countries where the belief system is Christianity and Islam.

 

 

 

 

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