The Bobo by Guy Le Moal

Bobo masksGuy Le Moal was an ethnologist by training. After his studies at CFRE (Ethnological Research Training Center), founded by Professor Andre Leroi Gourhan, he was quickly recruited in 1950, by Theodore Monod – then general director of IFAN (French Institut of Black Africa ), based in Dakar – to create a IFAN center in Ouagadougou, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso). He continued in that position until the independence of Upper Volta 1960.

After his departure from Africa, Guy Le Moal was linked to ORSTOM (Office of Scientific and Technical Research Overseas), which in 1980 published his thesis “The Bobo, nature and function of masks”. Concurrently, he was detached at the CNRS in 1963 where he continued his work until 2004, actively taking part in reflection laboratories referred to as “Systems of thought in Black Africa”.

Of his arrival in Africa, as a young researcher, Guy Le Moal discovered the Bobo people and their masks that captivated him. Thus it was he became devoted to understanding the religious practice of Bobo, whose masks play a key role in religious life. He continued his research into the 2000s.

The beautiful photographs he took have never been published. They were taken during the celebrations of Bobo religious ceremonies to which only initiates are given access, photographs that can restore the tangible “lives” of masks made of leaves and fibers which are of a more sacred, ephemeral nature than wooden masks and which does not allow them to appear on the walls of museums.

Le Moal Bobo full_Part5

Le Moal Bobo full_Part3

Le Moal Bobo full_Part2

Le Moal Bobo full_Part1

The following videos are available through the CNRS website in Paris.  They are outstanding quality. and document the wonderful creativity of the Bobo people.  Most were filmed in the early to mid-1960s in 16 mm with sound.  They are an important resource in understanding the culture of Burkina Faso.

Video, Carving a  Molo Mask (CNRS, Paris)

Video, Masks of Leaves (CNRS, Paris)

Video, Yele Danga (CNRS, Paris) 

Le Moal biography