In the Baule communities, the mblo performances are a significant cultural event. During these performances, skilled dancers don masks, which are often crafted as artistic representations of notable community members. These masks serve as “doubles” or “namesakes” for these individuals, symbolically honoring their contributions or traits. The Baule red face mask, adorned with two birds on top, is an exquisite example of this tradition.
These masks are not limited to representing a specific gender; they can depict both men and women. However, it is common for a man to commission a mask in honor of a female relative, or for a carver to create one in tribute to a woman’s exceptional dance skills and beauty. The significance of these masks is profound, and as such, only the finest dancers are chosen to wear them during performances. It is a requisite for the person represented by the mask, the “double,” to be present during these performances, accompanying their artistic likeness. This practice underscores the deep respect and admiration held for these individuals within the Baule community.