The Sogo Bò Masquerade

Nin sogo. Nin sogo tè sogo ye. Nin sogo ye jinè ye.

(This animal.  This animal is not an animal. This animal is a spirit.)

— Chant of the Sogo bò (Bambara: “The animals come forth” or Do bò (Bozo: “The secret comes forth”)
Mask of the god of water, Faro, at the Sogo Bo festival

Sogo bò, Through the Eyes of  the Observer

“We were in the center of the village and children, playing the djembé, poured out from everywhere. Young people announced the performance by blowing through cattle horns; adults were adorned in festive dress.

After hours of dancing, the puppets “came forth”, exuberant, colorful – a variety of characters, fantastic animals, some articulated: necks lengthened, ears stood up, wings flapped – … Then, we followed, walking in procession along the shore. The puppets were hoisted on canoes along the river, some had mirrors for eyes, creating an ever more mysterious atmosphere. Under the benevolence of the marionette Faro (master of water), depicted as a light-skinned woman of great beauty, the puppets Bama (crocodile) and Mari (hippopotamus) jumped into the water and began to dance by snapping their jaws.

The night ended very late, I was stunned by this grandiose and impressive spectacle, by this walk into the wonderful world of masks and puppets of the Sogobo theater. ”

― Africanist Pierre Robin

Through the Photographer’s Lens

Through Movement and Sound

“During the masquerade, society presents itself: ‘This is how we are and what we think about life.'”

― Anthropologist/Ethnomusicologist, Elisabeth den Otter

Sources and Further Reading

  • Den Otter, E. (2015). The Secret Comes Forth: The Depiction of Bozo and Bamanan Animals in Malian Puppetry. Retrieved 16 November 2018. *
  • [French] Boudier, L., Dulon, B., & Robin, P. (2007). Bozo : Masques et marionnettes du Mali, collection Pierre Robin. Paris, France: Editions Héritage architectural.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments