Exhibitions: The Arts of Africa

Banda Mask

Banda was the name of a masked being found among the Baga, Nalu, and Landuma, along the coastal regions of Guinea. The long, horizontal headdress is a composite of representations of the jaw of a crocodile, the face of a human being (complete with characteristic Baga scarification patterns and with a woman's elaborately braided coiffure), the horns of an antelope, and the curved tail of a chameleon. The combination of these features reflects the interaction between members of the community and their natural environment, an area of coastal lowlands cut by bays and estuaries.

Worn on top of the head, the multicolored mask is attached to a long, dense skirt made of vegetal fibers that covers the body of the wearer. Banda masks were the property of the Simo society, a men's association that regulated fertility and initiation ceremonies. Today, these masks are most often seen performing for entertainment on such occasions as visits by dignitaries, public holidays, or other festive occasions.