|The most important of the Baga art forms is the great mask, D'mba or Nimba.
It represents the mother of fertility, protector of pregnant women, and presides over all
agricultural ceremonies. The dancer, wearing a full raffia costume, carries the mask on his
shoulders, looking out through holes between the breasts. In use, such masks rise more
than eight feet above the ground; they often weigh more than eighty pounds. Most show a
standardized pattern of facial scarification.
" Nimba is the joy of living; it is the promise of abundant harvest"
The Baga Nimba, or D'mba, represents the abstraction of an ideal of the female role in
society. The Nimba is essentailly viewed as the vision of woman at her zenith of power,
beauty, and affective presence; rather than a goddess or spirit. The typical Nimba form
illustrates a woman that has been fertile, given birth to several children, and nurtured
them to adulthood.
Typically, the Baga Nimba's hair is braided into parallel rows (represented by the
scarification on the head) which are similar to the patterns of agriculture grown in West
African fields. The face, and breasts of the Baga Nimba are decorated with scarification,
which embody the ability of the Baga Nimba to alter its condition to the natural
environment. Nimba's presence is exemplified in all aspects if baga life for she is present
publicly at weddings to give direction to the new union; at funerals to initiate the ded;
harvest to celebrate productivity; and planting to inspire her people to continue to
complete difficult tasks. Ultimately, Nimba is a reminder of the reverred qualities which
make up the Baga social system.
Sources: Art of the Baga Photo: Art of the Baga
|I currently do not have a Baga D'mba in my collection
The spectacular piece below is in the Pollizze Collection
It was acquired from the McDonald-Levy Collection
80" tall (6.67 feet or 203cm)
|Above is the professional photo taken with a raffia skirt on the piece.
It was a newer addition, but the piece is older and I told them I thought it would look
better displayed without it so it could show the real character of this great piece as you
will see from the photos below.
|Additional examples and information for reference purposes
|Nimba dance 1938
This headdress is now in the Museum Barbier-Mueller in Geneva.
|Helene Leloup and assistant loading
Nimba headdresses and Bansonyi
snakes in her truck in 1956
|The Baga Nimba at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY
Headdress, 19th–20th century
Baga peoples; Guinea
Wood; H. 46 1/2 in. (118.1 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.17)
|Shoulder Mask (Nimba)
Guinea (Baga people)
Late nineteenth-early twentieth century
Wood, originally with raffia attachment
45 in. (114.3 cm)
Gift of Charles and Harriet Edwards with funds from the Lawrence Archer Wachs Trust, 1998.43
This impressive carving represents a ritual mask of the Baga, one of three main tribes who inhabit the Atlantic coast of
southwestern Guinea. Worn by members of the dominant Simo secret society, it depicts the spirit Nimba, goddess of
increase and fecundity.
An embodiment of the goddess and of "mother earth," the Nimba mask was associated both with human procreation
and with the fertility of the fields. According to nineteenth-century accounts written by travelers in the region, it was
carried about in the marshes and tall grasses of the Baga rice paddies. A potent fertility symbol, the goddess Nimba
was also invoked by infertile women in the Simo society. The headdress, in fact, represents an idealized female figure;
the long, flat, pendulous breasts identify her as a mature woman who has given birth to many children and has
nurtured them to adulthood.
The most monumental of ritual African masks, the Nimba mask towered eight feet above the ground when worn over
the shoulders by a Baga dancer.
This piece abover is in the Cincinnati Museum of Art Collection
|Headdress (Nimba, D'mba, or Yamban), mid-19th/early 20th century
Guinea. Wood, metal tacks
H: 119.4 cm x W: 33 cm x D: 59.1 cm W. G. Field Fund, Inc. and E. E. Ayer Endowment Fund in memory of Charles L.
This piece above is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
|An excellent reference on the Baga and their art is "Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention".
Click on the picture below to go to the Amazon.com page to view/purchase this book.