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Grebo

The Grebo arrived from the south of the Sahara around 1550. They settled on the coast of Liberia, west of the Cavally River. Like the related Bété, they escape the Poro association, which governs the entire political and religious life of most of West Africa. Divided into clans, the Grebo formerly chose a chief, bodio, who also assumed the function of high priest. Once named, the bodio had to live apart in a hut, takae, built in one day by the men of the clan. He devoted his time to meditation and subject to many taboos. At the level of traditional art, the Grebo sculpt masks that embody the spirits of the invisible world residing in the forest. Made by high-level initiates, these masks appeared during rituals reserved for initiates and at parties where the entire population could see them.
Statues and figures are very rare. One type of masks is characterized by a massive face surmounted by two buffalo horns, as in the Bete war mask. The second type of tribal mask represents the feminine ideal, the slits of the eyes and the softness of the expression bring it closer to the mask of Dan. In the interior of Liberia, the female face is the image of the ideal community and appears frequently on spoons, sticks of command and support of games. The third type of mask, more abstract and flat, is formed by a plate bearing tubular eyes. Some are divided into several horizontal spaces, marked at the level of the superciliary arches and the upper lip. This space-plan recalls the art of Toma. The geographical isolation of the Grebo has long suggested that they were devoid of sculpture.

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