The Gurma people live mainly in the southeast of Burkina Faso, their main neighbors there are the Peul in the north and Mossi in the west. However, their settlement area also extends to Niger in the west and in the south to Benin and northeastern Togo where the Moba are their neighbors in the west, see map [1-4]. They are said to originate from peoples that left northern Ghana in the early 12th century and founded the Gurma kingdom, which was influential until the arrival of the French at the end of the 19th century but then lost its significance [1, 3, 4]. Alternative names for Gurma are Gourma or Gourmantche. Their language is Gurma, which is related to the Mossi language and belongs to the Oti-Volta sub-group of the Gur languages.
The Gurma are agriculturalists and live in scattered settlements of circular compounds that are composed of small earthen huts with straw roofs. The cosmology consists of the creator god (tienu) and several types of spirits such as the ancestors and buli who mediate between god and human beings . Each person consists of six physical and non-physical components, i.e. gbannandi (physical body), yienu (god-consciousness), ciciliga (guiding spirit), naano (soul), cabili (destiny), and naali (ancestor form, which can incarnate). Different types of jingili altars exist in the compounds, i.e. semi-circular stone altars, in which sacrifices are offered.
|Fig. 1. Figures collected (or seen ) in the Gurma region|
Wooden and iron anthropomorphic representations originating from the Gurma are mentioned and shown in [4-6], see Fig. 1. As these figures demonstrate that they cannot be differentiated from those of their western neighbors in Togo, the Moba, with the exception of the two figures on the right, the far right one being clearly subjected to western influence according to . Geis-Tronich mentioned that such post-like representations originating from the Gurma can only be found in northern Togo and the adjacent southern part of Burkina Faso, but more to the north they don’t exist . This is confirmed and explained by the facts that 1) Zwernemann collected the figures shown in Fig. 1 in Nakitindi-est, i.e. in northern Togo , and 2) the Gurma have adopted the language and customs of the Moba in that specific region, according to Cornevin .
Moba figures represent cicili protective spirits that are attributed to human beings by the creator god (yendu) . The cicili, even those of decedents, can ask for materialization in the form of a wooden or iron figure through a diviner. Similarly in the Gurma cosmology according to Swanson, as mentioned above, one human component is the guiding spirit, ciciliga, so the religious beliefs of the Moba and Gurma are thus similar . However, Swanson did not mention the existence of any anthropomorphic representations . The centers of his research region were Pama and Fada N’Gourma, which are 30-130 km to the north of Togo – thus most probably already in regions which were not under Moba influence and where such figures do not exist according to Geis-Tronich . The unanswered question that rises from the fact that the Moba and Gurma have similar belief systems is why the Moba have anthropomorphic representations of the protective/guiding spirits but their neighbors, the Gurma (if uninfluenced by the Moba), do not?
 Menjaud Henri. Documents ethnographiques sur le Gourma. Journal de la Société des Africanistes, tome 2, fascicule 1, 35-47, 1932.
 Froelich, Jean-Claude. Les sociétés d'initiation chez les Moba et les Gourma du Nord-Togo. In: Journal de la Société des Africanistes. 1949, tome 19, 99-141, 1949.
 Swanson, Richard Alan. Gourmantche ethnoanthropology: a theory of human being. University Press of America, Lanham, MD USA, 1985.
 Geis-Tronich, Gudrun. Materielle Kultur der Gulmance in Burkina Faso. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 1991.
 Zwernemann, Jürgen. Schutzgeistfiguren der Moba und Gurma in Nord-Togo. Tribus, Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Band 46, 157-188, 1997.
 Online archive of Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, EO.1968.54.6&7, collected in Togo by Walter Verheyen.
 Cornevin, Robert. Histoire du Togo. Editions Berger-Levrault, Paris, 1959.
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