merekun (Puppet)

About this object

History of use

A mobile stage is covered with cloths, concealing the men inside, who move the stage across the dance area. Fitted in front with a wooden animal head (an antelope or buffalo mask), the stage itself is a large puppet. The performances are organized by the village youth organizations, kamalen ton. Sogo bò is organized into a series of up to twenty discrete performances separated by short intervals of song and dance. Puppet ensembles include balanin fola (Small rod puppets), merekun (large rod puppets), Yayoroba (Beautiful women), and maani (smaller figurative forms). The puppet heads or figures poke out from the top of the cloth frame, and are made to twirl and dance as they tower above the stage. The puppets and masks depict animals, fantastic creatures, hunters and characters from village life. Short performances focus on themes of family and village rivalry, jealously and unity, as well as masculine values and their identification with hunters. Bambara/Bamana farmers and Bozo fishermen participate together in these performances now, but the oral tradition suggests puppet theater originated with the Bozo.

Physical description

Yayoroba puppet. Standing figure (part a) with four long, thin arms down at the sides. One back arm (part b) is broken off at the shoulder. The figure wears a tall black headdress with four points, and light yellow-green floral and butterfly pattern tunic. She has bright pink painted skin, exposed breasts, black and white eyes, black eyebrows, black marks on the cheeks and forehead, black lips and a black line down the chin. The figure lacks legs, and is mounted on a single rod.