Kono masks are associated with abstract qualities of judgment and discernment of good and evil. This mask depicts a mythical beast, a composite creature loosely based on both elephant and crocodile yet heavily encrusted with sacrificial materials. Masks of the Kono association, which enforces civic morality, are also elongated and encrusted with sacrificial material. The kono masks were also used in agricultural rituals, mostly to petition for a good harvest. They usually represent an animal head with long open snout and long ears standing in a V from the head, often covered with mud. In contrast to komo masks, which are covered with feathers, horns and teeth, those of the kono society are elegant and simple. The headdress are worn horizontally. Bamana jow (initiation societies) have a tremendous importance in social and religious life. In jow like Komo, Kono, Nama, and Ci-wara, among others, one gains access to secret knowledge by traveling and working for a reputed master (soma). Some villages may not have even a single jo, while in many others several societies may coexist and compete with one another. Although jow are considered men's organizations, in numerous cases women may make offerings to and even seek help from one of the jo deities. Furthermore, each jo has one female official who may perform important ritual functions, though she is not supposed to know the society's secrets. Bamana rely on their jow for social interaction and as a means to address such problems as sickness, misfortune, and mystical aggression. While these societies are influential in political and judicial matters, today most of their power is overshadowed by state institutions and Islam.
Source from an article in African Arts, Winter, 2001, by Jean-Paul Colleyn.
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