Africa

Baga snake headdresses from Guinea Bassau

Most mask collectors also like to display headdresses as well. They are used by tribal dancers for the same purpose as masks. Headdresses can be quite tall. These three are in the 40 to 50 inch range.

What I like especially about the Baga snakes is that they are perfect tall sculptures. I can’t think of a European sculpture who quite measures up to this degree of fine art… well maybe Giacometti or Brancusi.

With sinuous curves and reptilian form, this large wooden carving represents the Baga Snake, or Bansonyi, a protective spirit that presides over male initiation rites of the Baga people of Guinea Bassau, on the coast of West Africa. Worn as a headdress, this sculptural figure is held on the shoulders of a dancer whose body is concealed beneath a costume of raffia, bells, and colorful feathers.

Often donned by a pair of male and female performers, the figures celebrate the transition of boys into men and provide spiritual protection for all members of the community. We love the way the artist invoked the snake’s undulating movements by giving the sculpture some tilts and curves. The Baga make a number of completely different masks, all of which are exciting to see.

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