Nimba mask

Africa, Guinea

I am the spirit that brings growth and fertility to the village and its crops. I am a Nimba mask, from the village of Monchon on the banks of the Rio Pongo, where the rice-growing Baga people live. Their village was built on a plain covered with mangrove trees, and with many rivers and arms of the sea flowing through it.

As a woman, I symbolize fertility and growth; impressive are my size and weight (over 130 lbs.). I am the force that makes people, plants and animals thrive. I appear at important times, when rice is sown, transplanted and harvested. I protect pregnant women, attend weddings and guide the dead to the world of their ancestors.

I can only be worn by a robust man dressed in a raffia fiber and cloth skirt that goes down to his ankles. He places me on his shoulders and looks out through two holes between my breasts. The Nimba wearer dances to the beat of large drums, while women sing along and throw rice to express their joy. When the dance is over, I go back into a sacred hut.

  • How would you describe me to someone who has never seen me?
  • Would you say that I am more human or more animal?
  • What do you think of when you look at my hairdo?