Gola and Vai Mask The Zoegbé/Zoba

The Zoegbé/Zoba is a Sande society mask from the Gola and Vai that represents female power and fertility in a male-dominated society. During feasts and funerals of chiefs, she comes out only surrounded by women. The Zoegbé/Zoba is known to have extreme power and is not to be trifled with. Men fear her and have tried to get rid of her in the past. She is colored in black because to the Gola and Vai, black is a symbol of the unknown. She also wears white to represent clear thinking and justice. The Zoegbé/Zoba sometimes carries a stick, sword, or knife for protection.

The features of Zoegbé/Zoba convey Sande ideals of female morality and physical beauty. The bird on top of her head represents a woman’s natural intuition that lets her see and know things that others cannot. Her high or broad forehead represents good luck, or the sharp and contemplated mind of an ideal Sande woman. Her downcast eyes symbolize a spiritual nature and is used by a person wearing the mask to see and move around freely. Her small mouth signifies the ideal woman’s quiet and humble character. The marks on her cheeks are representative of the decorative scars girls receive as they step into womanhood; these scars are a symbol of her new, harder life. The neck rolls are an indication of an ideal woman’s health because in the Sande culture, full-figured women are considered beautiful. The intricate hairstyles reveal the close ties within a community of women, and the holes at the base of the mask are where the rest of the costume is attached.

A woman who wears the Zoegbé/Zoba during ceremonies must not expose any part of her body or a vengeful spirit may take possession of her. Women wearing the mask often cover their bodies with masses of raffia or black cloth.

The Zoegbé/Zoba is a strong mask with magical powers. She is the judge of the Sande Women, protecting them from harm throughout their lives.