The Kodal mask

The Kodal is a Senufo mask often wrongly describted in literature. You can read that the Kpelié is a sub-group of the Kodal masks or that the Kodal is a topic of certain Senufo masks. Burkhard Gottschalk explains the term Kodal on page 127 of his book "Senufo - unbekannte Schätze aus privaten Sammlungen" that the Senufo call all masks Kodal, when they have no ritual meaning and are danced in public, or masks from other tribes used in own ceremonies. Many information got mixed up to create a synonym or a basic term for countless types of undetermined Senufo masks. There is a number of Kpelié masks describted as Kodal in the book "Die Kunst der Senufo, Museum Rietberg" by Till Förster from pages 34 up to 43.

While I was writing my books, I found a lot of confusing information. Rarely I found matches. So this blog article does show, for the first time, an explizit example of the Kodal.


The Kodal is a distinct mask on its own

The Kodal is a distinct mask on its own and is always in combination with a costume suit. The Kodal mask characterizes the panther. The dance is called "Boloye" ("la danse panthère") and everyone in the village is allowed to see the panther dancing. The dance to traditional Senufo music is for entertainment on ceremonies as for baptism, weddings or a man enters a new initiations phase. It is documentated that also kids dance in panther costumes together with the adult men. Mostly there are five and more dancers in a variation of prints.

The group of the dancing panthers "Boloye de Koko". Koko, a village next to Korhogo, March 2019. Photo by Souleymane Arachi.
The group of the dancing panthers "Boloye de Koko". Koko, a village next to Korhogo, March 2019. Photo by Souleymane Arachi.

The full-body costume, mask and suit is always separate, itself is like a "Onesie", a one piece suit. There are only seams in the side, arm and the inseam of the legs. Some have a long zipper in the back, simpler versions do show a binding in the neckhole. The arm itself is set in Kimono pattern. The cut in general is rectangular like, only the inseam is in a curved line. Tassels made of raffia are at the hem of the feet.

The suit has a baggy cut, with overlengh arms. You never see the hands of the dancer.

The silhouette is, like any other ceremonial costumes of the Senufo, exaggurated and should not be human like. Sometimes the dancer holds dry limbs in his hands to express stalking.




The most characteristic feature is of the Kodal is the material: Handprinted cotton fabric. There is a wide range of certain designs. Some should imitate fur or spots, others show strong geometric patterns. The Kodal covers the complete head and neck. The shown fabric does have printed circles, persumibly made with bottle tops and a geometrical stripe pattern in dark brown and red.

The mask itself has two round shaped vents that allow the dancers to see. The eyes are cutted out and the edges show hand stitches to avoid fringing and to give more expression to the eyes. In the corners of the square shaped sack, two ears are seperately placed in the each corner. The shown mask does have two plastic lenses form sunglasses inserted and fixed in the corners of the cloth by hand stiches in a blue yarn.

Content and images by Markus Ehrhard

Image of "Boloye de Koko" courtesy of Soulemyane Arachi, Korhogo.