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HOME : African & Tribal Art : AS collection : Baga Wooden Nimba Shoulder Mask
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Baga Wooden Nimba Shoulder Mask - PF.5473 (LSO)
Origin: Coast of Guinea
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 41" (104.1cm) high x 20.5" (52.1cm) wide
Catalogue: V26
Collection: African
Medium: Wood, Raffia, Nails

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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This powerful Baga Nimba mask is a large and superbly-preserved example of the genre: Nimba is the Baga representative of fertility, not technically a goddess but nonetheless endowed with considerable spiritual power.

The mask is unusually ornate, with the hooked nose, prominent breasts, tubular mouth and ornate ears, complemented by lines and geometric forms marked out with metal studs. The “skirt” of raffia conceals the traditional four- legged design. The surface of the wood is unpainted but has acquired glossy patina through age and usage.

These pieces are a major part of the social structure in the Baga group, which is based around the coastal areas of Guinea Bissau. In practical terms, they are worn to celebrate festivals, harvests, in honour of special visitors, and at nuptial events, but their significance runs considerably deeper. They are abstract representations of idealised womanhood, particularly motherhood (hence the large, pendulous breasts), who serves as an inspiration to mothers-to-be, and motivates young men to greater industry. Nimba’s fertility overtones also relate to the success of the rice harvest. It was worn by a very fit dancer who supported the full weight on their shoulders and performed acrobatic leaps during his dance, a considerable achievement considering the large size of the piece.

This is a true masterpiece of African art.

- (PF.5473 (LSO))


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