Additional Information: The Nimba or D'mba headdress is by far the most well-known Baga work of art. It is a bust of a woman on four legs, and is worn on the head with a costume of raffia and cloth. It represents an older woman who has given selflessly, and also represents community. Its use was documented as early as 1886. There are many traditional components: plaited hair, medial crest, flattened breasts, zig zag patterns, brass (aluminum) tacks.
The Baga people, a small group of 45,000, live along the coast of Guinea.The art of the Baga of coastal Guinea revolves around nature, the harvest and the veneration of feminine beauty. All of these vital social and spiritually important elements are combined in the D'mba.
Prescott has said:" Nimba is the joy of living; it is the promise of abundant harvest in the entire Bagata." The Nimba masks, often monumental works carried on the shoulders, rank among the largest of all ritual objects in West Africa. Their use, as hinted at above, is rather ubiquitous.
They are used at funerals, harvest festivals, and at initiations. Normally these "masks" have four legs or posts(for placement on the shoulders), and feature large noses and pendulous breasts, which hang close to the body. The carving would then be provided with a colorful and elaborate costume prior to use. Our mask is quite unique, having characteristic Nimba features, but lacking the "body" that is normally present. It is a finely carved and impressive piece.
The Baga moved to their current location as early as the 14thC, having fled from the Sudan along with many other groups. Their art is often quite abstract and spectacular, and is eagerly sought by collectors. See "Africa: The Art of a Continent," by Prestel.
D. Paulme: African Sculpture (London, 1962)
——: ‘Structures sociales en pays Baga’, Bull. Inst. Fr. Afrique Noire, xviii/1–2
(1956), pp. 98–116
F. Lamp: ‘The Art of the Baga: A Preliminary Inquiry’, African Arts, xix/2 (1986),
pp. 64–7, 92
F. Lamp: Art of the Baga. A drama of cultural reinvention, The Museum for African Art. Prestel. (New York,1996)
I have examined this piece and agree with the description
Niangi Batulukisi, Ph.D.