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L. Pescador, 1995







Bete, Gre (Gle) Mask

(Ivory Coast, Issia Region) - Wood, sacrificial encrustations, magic substances, horse hair, shells, fangs, metal studs, handbells, iron, coins, h cm 28.

(private collection, Bergamo).


ex Antoine Ferrari de la Salle collection, ex Alain de Monbrison collection.

Mask during dance published in: A. Fantoni, I.G.A., Novara, 1960 (See photograph.)


The Bete people were a population of about three hundred and seventy thousand, sub-divided into several groups where no centralized system of power existed. Primarily hunters, but also farmers, the group settled in the South-West of the Ivory Coast along the Sassandra river.


The Bete lived in widespread villages where they cohabited as many different clans, each of which had a totemic animal of protection which could neither be killed nor eaten.


With its overly dilated nostrils and protruding features skillfully arranged in horizontal planes, and often decorated with metal studs, the powerful “gre” or “gle” mask materialized and expressed the strength of the terrible forest spirits.


The esoteric dance performed with the wearing of the mask was enhanced by the sound of a beating drum, and could be fully understood  only by the initiates.


Bete maskers appeared for participation in village trials, funeral ceremonies, parties with neighboring villages and for the celebration of the return of peace after battles.


Bibliography (incomplete)

J. P. Dozon, La Société Beté, Paris, ORSTOM, 1985.

A. Fantoni, La spedizione Permaflex in Costa d’Avorio, Novara, I.G.A. 1960

H. Holas, Masques Ivoriennes, Abidjan, C.S.H., 1969.

D. Paume, Une société de Cote-d’Ivoire hier et aujourd-hui: les Bété, Paris, La Haye, 1962

A.P. Rood, Bete masked dance, in African Arts, II, 3, 1969.