WOONGO, Stories about Masks

Photos by Selim Harbi
May 28, 2015 Perception — Issue 1

The mask is an ambiguous and mystical object, an instrument of metamorphosis and deceit. It embodies beauty and terror, symbolises the gods, and manifests the invisible and the supernatural.



It is more than a simple disguise behind which man seeks to hide, but a visible manifestation of the spirit, African civilisations have always favoured the mask’s function and shape; it’s beauty is defined by necessity: the mask’s value is based on its usefulness.


At the beginning of the century the Surrealists called it “negro art”.

Thus relegating the mask to being merely a carved head seen through the aesthetic prism, and distorting its meaning.



In WOONGO people engage in subtle, games to tell the story of their lives…behind a mask.


Exploring a fine line between documentary and production, reality emerges for a brief moment to remind us that the two worlds from both sides of the mask finally become one. What about African masks today? How are they perceived in African societies? As simple wooden objects or artefacts for worship with supernatural powers? As artwork or ornaments? Is the mask not the best tool to understand the contemporary realities of the continent considering how it has witnessed time?


WOONGO introduces a broad spectrum of reflection on contemporary African reality, a sense of time, tradition and identity.


*Woongo means “masks” in the Moré language, which is spoken widely in Burkina Faso.