African art > Mask > Baga Mask
Baga Altar Mask (N° 13736)
Ex-English African art collection.
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Mixed with the Nalu and Landuman, the Baga live along the coasts of Guinea-Bissau in areas of swamps flooded six months a year. They believe in a creative god called Nagu, Naku, which they do not represent, and which is accompanied by a male spirit whose name is Somtup , figured by a large cage covered with raffia whose top is a bird's head. Another spirit adopts a form of snake, the bansonyi , head of the classes to-lom . The nimba, the shoulder mask, evokes a fertile woman. Each family has, among a variety of consecrated objects, an altar in the form of a composite figure of bird and human, athel or elek , which rises from a circular base. Frequent sacrifices are supposed to reactivate the protective power of the Elek. Other headdresses depict the bird, whose mask a-nok present during the initiation ritual. After the abandonment of the rites following Islamization and colonization, the Baga are now seeking to revive their traditions through festive ceremonies using masks. Our piece, quite similar to the one in the Quai Branly museum, could recall, through an allegory, the ambitions of the colonial administrator Henri Labouret who collected objects for the Museum of Man in Paris in the 1930s. Evoking air travel, the bird carries on its back the character surrounded by two miniature birds. Well-preserved polychromy.
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|Estimated dating||circa 1950|
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