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A Mediator between the Material
and Spiritual Worlds

Nuna ritual music instruments
Burkina Faso
Ethnic group: Nuna
Canadian Museum of Civilization

Video Excerpt

  Fertility Rites of the Earth / Photo: DPC, Burkina Faso


This set of instruments consists of eight flutes, three long drums and two armpit drums. The latter are not used in the ceremonies during which the masks are brought out. Masks are present in every aspect of life, in one way or another. They protect individuals and the society, and serve as privileged intermediaries between humans and the various powers, to ensure the fertility of the soil and the women.

In traditional societies, life follows a calendar of ceremonies related to the agricultural cycle, initiation and funerals — ceremonies at which music must be present. The dry season ends around the month of May, and that is when certain rites are performed. Their purpose is to regenerate the human community through participation in the rebirth of vegetation, and thus prepare for the coming of the new rains. During the days of celebration, there are many interludes for mask dances accompanied by the instruments seen here. The people eagerly await them and participate intensely.