TRIBAL AFRICAN ART

LIGBI (also see related Senufo)

Related to the Senufo, the Ligbi people, living close to the Senufo have moved from west Ghana to the Côte d'Ivoire. The Islamized communities who live as traders and artisans among non-Moslem groups in extensive areas of northern Côte d'Ivoire are known for an institution called do or lo, one of whose most striking public manifestations is colorful masquerade dancing. Though in decline, the custom is still practiced on important Islamic holidays, especially at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The feast goes on for several days. The performance of the maskers is accompanied by drums, singing and dancing, it expresses the joy of the faithful that the period of fasting is over. Prayers and sacrifices alternate for a full week before the assembled village.

With its lateral wings, Ligbi masks show the influence of Senufo kpeliyee mask. Nevertheless, the downcast curved eyes and the use of pigments are typical for Ligbi masks. To complete these masks, oil and make-up are applied and during the performance they are adorned with gold and silver jewelry. In the other type of mask (Yangaleye), human features are combined with the powerful bill of the hornbill bird. The Ligbi attach great importance to this bird, considering it one of mythical primeval animals, an attendant on the souls of the dead and a symbol of fertility. These masks are also popular among the do society. They are danced during the funerals of distinguished Moslem holy men, and their performances also mark the end of Ramadan. The masqueraders are greatly admired for the grace of their dance movements, which they perform in pairs and in perfect unison. They are also valued for the positive qualities ascribed to the hornbill, whose behavior and family life are considered exemplary by the Ligbi.   

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