How does the traveller see it?
(Fragment of a post from a Facebook page)
After going back and forth a bit, I decided to buy this painting. This was February 2020 in the Central African Republic (CAR). I don’t, however, recommend buying this kind of mask; the woman is speaking with a mask that represents her husband who has passed into the spirit world. She’s saying something to it. The triangular markings underneath the eyes on the mask illustrate that her husband was killed. Judging by the the tattoos on her face and her skin color, I reckon that she is a Fulani (Fulbe) woman. There’s a photo I took in Cameroon on Facebook. The Fulani are a widespread and well-respected ethnic group in Africa, but in the CAR they are the minority; life is tough for them. The Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency claims that in September of 2021, “Wagnerites” (a Russian paramilitary group) killed 40 innocent Fulanis.
It’s worth noting that the day after I purchased the painting, I had the misfortune of encountering representatives from that paramilitary group, and when they asked us what we were doing there, we – glancing at their AK – humbly answered “tourists”. We were then kindly informed that half a year earlier, some “tourists” had also been there, and they didn’t make it home (they were hinting at Orkhan Dzhemal’ and his fellow journalists, who were killed in 2018).
An image of a mask is, fortunately, not an actual mask. We dodged a bullet there.
Returning to the picture. The woman is resting on a calabash – a squash also known as “bottle gourd” that is used to make various containers and receptacles. It’s a symbol of wisdom in Africa. The artist is surely trying to tell us that it’s wise of the woman to get advice from her husband, even if he’s dead already… right?
Perhaps in order for peace to come to the CAR, today’s apologists for the cannibal Jean-Bédel Bokassa (former President of the country) should be replaced by this woman?