Tribal art > African mask > Baga mask
Baga a-bem crest mask (N° 20591)
Mixed with the Nalu and Landuman, the Baga live along the coast of Guinea-Bissau in swampy areas that are flooded six months of the year. They believe in a creator god called Nagu, Naku, whom they do not represent, and who is accompanied by a male spirit, one of whose names is Somtup, figured by a large raffia-covered cage with a bird's head at the top. Another spirit adopts a snake form, the bansonyi , chief of the initiates of the to-lom classes.
Each family has, among a variety of consecrated objects , an altar in the form of a composite bird and human figure, a-tshöl or elek ,rising from a circular base. Frequent sacrifices are believed to reactivate the protective power of the elek . Other headdresses feature the bird, including the a-nok mask or the a-bemp or a-bamp mask that was placed on the head, present during the initiation ritual. It now appears during secular festivities.
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Polychrome patina, desiccation cracks.
After the abandonment of the rites following Islamization and then colonization, the Baga today seek to revive their traditions through festive ceremonies using the masks.
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