Stele Headdress (Bansonyi or a-Mantsho-ña-Tshol)

Stele Headdress (Bansonyi or a-Mantsho-ña-Tshol) ©LCVA

Baga culture
Guinea
wood, polychrome
90.5" x 14" x 8"
1999.104
Gift of Donna and Thomas L. Brumfield, Jr.

A gigantic snake figure (Bansonyi or a-Mantsho-ña-Tshol), writhing like the boa constrictor found in local swamps, rises high above the crowd. Feathers, bells, and ribbons attached to the snake figure's head whip through the air feverishly. Sunlight reflecting on the snake's round inset mirrors magically sparkles and glitters in the sky. The feet of the dancer stir up dust under his brightly colored palm-fiber costume. The crowds cheer, shout and fire guns around the masked boys who are celebrating their kä-bërë-tshol initiation into adulthood. Such is one of the scenes in which this mask would be found. Used in other ceremonies including burying the dead, deflecting destructive forces like droughts, or curing sterility, the mask inspires community unity.

Bibliography: Hahner-Herzog, 1998, p.24; Lamp, 1996, pp.74-81; Phillips, 1999, fig.5.139. 2.