Baga Wooden Nimba Mask 2
20th Century AD
The Nimba mask of Baga are among the most massive and imposing of all African masks. At the rice harvest festivals,...
20th Century AD
The Nimba mask of Baga are among the most massive and imposing of all African masks. At the rice harvest festivals, an adult male, hidden beneath the raffia skirt, wears the Nimba mask on his shoulders and dances through the fields while peering through two holes between the breasts. Carved out of a solid block of wood, the Nimba masks weighs between 80-130 pounds. When worn by the adult the Nimba mask can tower over eight feet in height so it will easily be seen moving through the fields.
In many cultures, it is common for female figures to be associated with agricultural plenty, for instance the Roman Goddess Ceres or the more generic Mother Earth. This Nimba mask represents a female figure, the mother of fertility, and presides over the agricultural ceremonies. She protects the growth of both crops and pregnant women. Thus she is the protector of both the sustenance of life and life itself. She has flat, pendant breasts, which tell us she has nurtured many children. The ritual body scarifications, symbolized by the pattern of the upholstery tacks imbedded into the sculpture, are marks of beauty. From the bridge of her large hooked nose, a low crest extends over the receding forehead to the hairline. It is followed by a larger crest, carved in relief, that runs down the back of the head. This intricately braided coiffure further enhances her beauty. Overall, the Nimba mask symbolizes all that is good: the strength, the joy of living, the love of the beautiful and the attachment to our ancestors.
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