Sacred Wood

Initiation in the Guinean forests

Masque de danse anthropomorphe Toma, Guinée, Afrique. Inv. 71.1937.25.73 © musée du quai Branly, photo Claude Germain - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Anthropomorphic Toma dance mask, Guinea, Africa. Inv. 71.1937.25.73 © musée du quai Branly, photograph Claude Germain

from tuesday 4 march to sunday 18 may 2014

  • East Mezzanine
  • Collections or twin ticket


  • Aurélien Gaborit, Head of the Africa collections at the musée du quai Branly, scientific director of the Pavillon des Sessions, musée du Louvre

around the exhibition

About the exhibition


On the African continent, the initiation ceremony marks a mandatory rite of passage for each individual. For some countries in western Africa, it is the Poro initiation which plays a primordial role in a number of communities in the region. The exhibition examines in particular the secret societies of the Guinean forests: Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast.


For the Toma, the generic term Poro designates "the mask". The manifestation of power, which is held only by certain individuals, is manifest by the objects involved in the initiations, and primarily in the masks which play a central role. The Toma – also known as the Loma – are considered in western Africa as the creators of Poro, an organisation which was inaugurated in around the 16th century. The Poro was then adopted and adapted by other populations located geographically relatively close to the Toma.

The exhibition evokes the origins of the initiatory system of the Poro, the initiation ceremony and finally the history of the collection of these objects whose power resides in secrecy. It will present a number of masks linked to initiation, and in particular the different types of Toma masks, together with other objects, miniature masks, figurines and statues, relating to these mysterious societies.