Masks of The Gambia: Kurukupaa

Kurukupaa is a female mask in the Mandinka ethnic group, but sadly the masquerade nowadays cannot be seen any more.


Masks in Africa are mostly associated with and worn by men. But in some cultures, women also own and perform in the mask. Kurukupaa is a mask belonging to young girls. At first, it was worn by senior women in ancient Muslim Mandé society but later transferred to girl’s category mask. Originally belonging strictly to the girls of the Muslim religion, it was later brought to non-Muslim Mandinkas through the intermarriage of Mandinkas of various religions.


This mask is worn by girls from the leather workers caste group. The masquerade is made using a handwoven cloth, which is sown like a skirt. There are five skirts, which the girls put on and it goes with head ties. The mask puts a calabash on her head, and the calabash contains a live turtle and beads. It signifies fecundity and feminine qualities.

The kurukupaa is accompanied by girls singing, dancing and clapping. The mask is customarily given gifts of money and food during the performance.

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