Dec 07, 2016
African Masks from the Collection of James Gaasch, recently published by the Humboldt State University Press, contains photographs of the African masks and carvers from the Bwa (or Bwaba), Winiama and Mossi peoples of Burkina Faso, and the Bamana and Dogon peoples of Mali.
Emeritus Professor Gaasch acquired many of these masks in the villages where they were carved. When possible, he interviewed the village carvers, the creators, of these dancing masks. Gaasch’s interviews with the carvers underscore the cultural context where traditional African world views persist. And, to the extent possible, they give voice to the masks to reveal their own significance. “They are, in our times, signifiers of cultures increasingly under siege, hostage to religious fanaticism, or to impoverishing globalization,” Gaasch explains. “This small book reaffirms the rights of these masks to continue to dance.”
Gaasch has received two Fulbright Senior Scholar Grants to teach and conduct research in Africa. He has published three textbooks dedicated to the study of West African literature, and a recent book discussing West African mask traditions titled, Following the Dancing Masks of Burkina Faso and Mali. For more information about Gaasch, click here. For more information about a showing of the collection earlier this year, click here.
“The timely publication of this catalog is the natural progression of the outstanding African mask exhibition that took place first at Humboldt State University in Northern California. Professor Gaasch invites us to reflect on a most poignant cultural manifestation of communities from West Africa. We learn about mask making, carvers, cultural practices, and ceremonial dances, but at the end we learn about ourselves. This catalog rigorously documents a cultural patrimony of African people.”
Dr. Rosamel S. Benavides-Garb, Chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, Humboldt State University
“The James Gaasch African Mask collection is truly amazing and it is an honor to have it exhibited in the Reese Bullen Gallery at Humboldt State University. It is a remarkable collection, especially since many of the masks were collected in Africa from the village or even from carvers who made them. In addition, it is extraordinary that so much of the collection is from living traditions. Many parts of Africa have been overwhelmed by Western values, religious conflicts, overpopulation, and attendant poverty and ill health. This has resulted in the loss of tribal traditions and their visual and linguistic uniqueness. The loss of languages and cultures in the 21st century is occurring more rapidly than the disappearance of animal and plant species.”
Dr. Ron Johnson, Emeritus Professor of Art History and Tribal Art, Humboldt State University
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