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rick Lamp




The Museum for African Art Prestel _



Art of the Baga




by Frederick Lamp

Forewords by Simon Ottenberg and Djibril Tamsir Niane

with contributions by Sekou Beka Bangoura, Adolphe Camara, P. E. H. Hair, Djibril Tamsir Niane, "The Baga Youth," and forty Baga consultants

Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention has been organized by The Museum for African Art, New York in cooperation with The Baltimore Museum of Art

The Museum for African Art & Prestel Verlag 1996


Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention is published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title organized and presented by The Museum for African Art, New York, in cooperation with The Baltimore Museum of Art. The exhibition will travel to The Baltimore Museum of Art and other museums. The exhibition is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, federal agencies, The Rockefeller Foundation, and NALCO (Mining) Inc., Pittsburgh. Text Editor: David Frankel Design: Linda Florio Design Associate Curator: Carol Thompson Copyright 1996 (g) The Museum for African Art. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from The Museum for African Art, 593 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. Prestel books are available worldwide. Please contact your nearest bookseller or write to either of the following addresses for information concerning your local distributor: Prestel-Verlag Mandlstrasse 26, 80802 Munich, Germany Phone (49 89) 381 7090, Fax (49 89) 381 70935 and 16 West 22nd Street New York, NY 10010, USA Phone (212)627 8199, Fax (212)627 9866 Library of Congress catalogue card no. 96-077336 Clothbound ISBN 3-7913-1725-3 Paperbound ISBN 0-945802-18-8 Front cover: Dance of D'mba, Baga Sitemu. Since 1984, some villages have attempted to renew pre-Islamic Baga ritual dance that was discontinued in the 1950s. Vincent Bangoura (center) is one of the young leaders in this effort to learn the old dances, to carve and construct the Baga masquerades, to learn the traditional songs and compose new ones, and to encourage the elders to pass down the traditional knowledge. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990. Back cover: Female dance headdress (D'mba/Yamban). Probably Bulunits, Monchon Village, c. 1938? Photographs taken by Beatrice Appia seem to document this headdress newly carved and worn in dance for the first time. Wood, metal. H. 125 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Gift of Alan Wuttzburger(BMA 1957.97). Printed and bound in Belgium by Snoeck-Ducaju 8c Zoon.



6 PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Grace C. Stanislaus 8 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Frederick Lamp 10 FOREWORD Djibril Tamsir Niane Simon Ottenberg 12 PREFACE Frederick Lamp 17 LENDERS TO THE EXHIBITION 19

CHAPTER I Introduction: Authority and the Creation of a Narrative on the Baga


CHAPTER II The Coastal Matrix: Early Settlement before the French


CHAPTER III Ethnohistory: The Legacy of the Fouta Djalion


CHAPTER IV Masculine and Feminine Clans and Their Patron Spirits


CHAPTER V The Welfare of the Clan and the Invention of God

105 CHAPTER VI The Creation of Status: The Age Grades 137 CHAPTER VII Spirits of the Composite Beast: The Justification of Disparate Worlds 155 CHAPTER VIII Foundations of a New Society: The Construction and Deconstruction of Beauty and Goodness 183 CHAPTER IX The Colonial Watershed: Social Conflict and Resolution under the French Order 205 CHAPTER X Spirits of Defiance and Reinvention 223 CHAPTER XI The Islamic Watershed: A Culture Held in Reserve, 1955-1985 241 CHAPTER XII The Present Dilemma: Age Grades and the Valuation of Heritage 261 GLOSSARY 263 BIBLIOGRAPHY





Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention is a project of multifaceted and intriguing dimensions, a project that resonates even more deeply than this publication and exhibition can contain or appropriately transmit. The project is, in fact, an epic saga, unfolding over decades among the Baga people of Guinea and then in the West through the field research of Africanist scholar and Curator Frederick Lamp. Here is an epic for our modern times, featuring a little-known and little-researched people in West Africa who, after centuries of domestic and foreign incursions, redefined cultural patrimony on their own terms and found a vehicle to present their story on the world stage. The broad social and cultural transformations fostered by such local incursions, by colonialism, and by the sweeping introduction of Islam are not in themselves unique to the Baga people, nor is the subsequent process of cultural reinvention. But the story that we are now privileged to read in this seminal catalogue and to view through the incredible objects, videos, and field photographs on display in the exhibition is unique in that it is layered with a sense of destiny converging with opportunity. The Baga had a story to tell and Fred Lamp was receptive to it. The result is the special relationship that evolved between the Baga people and the field researcher, the depth of which neither could have predicted. Every project has a meaningful genesis. In the case of this exhibition, Fred Lamp,following the lead of the Baga people, was at its source. So little research currently exists on the Baga people, so few interpretive constructs such as that of cultural reinvention have been examined with this kind of scholarly distinction and personal engagement, that this exhibition and publication are unquestionably of great aesthetic and scholarly import. Fred Lamp's dedication and hard work, and the Baga people's • receptiveness to him, now deepen our understanding and appreciation of Baga art and culture and defines for the future how the relationship between an African society and a Western scholar can be brought to a satisfying culmination. As every project is defined by those whom the subject inspires, so projects are brought to fruition by those who recognize their value and provide support. Thanks to former Director Susan Vogel for recognizing the importance of this exhibition, and to Arnold Lehman, Director, and Brenda Richardson, Deputy Director for Art and Curator, Modern Painting and Sculpture, at The Baltimore Museum of Art for their support of Fred and this project over many years of planning and preparation. At the Museum for African Art, many members of the staff and contract personnel worked tirelessly to support the exhibition and catalogue with their ideas and professional expertise. Special acknowledgment and thanks to Frank Herreman, Director of Exhibitions, for his hard work and diligence in overseeing every aspect of the exhibition and catalogue planning and production. Also to Carol Thompson, Associate Curator, who worked as diligently on the project for many years. Thanks also to Linda Florio, Graphic Designer; David Frankel, Editor; Jerry L. Thompson, Photographer; Sally Yerkovich,former Acting Director; and Danielle Amato Milligan and Patricia Blanchet, respectively the current and the former Director of Development, who successfully secured funding for the exhibition. Special thanks to Linda Karsteter, Registrar, for her commendable work in coordinating national and international loans and for overseeing the installation of the exhibition; and to Carol Braide, Executive Assistant and Publications Coordinator, who,in her usual efficient manner, took charge, organized, compiled, and proofed the catalogue materials. In the Museum's Education Department, we thank Leon Waller, Director of Education, and Lubangi Muniania, Museum Educator, for the development and implementation of an exciting schedule of education and public programs; and Marjorie Ransom, Volunteer Coordinator, and the Volunteer Museum Educators for their dedication to interpreting the works and ideas in the exhibition to the public. We also recognize Victoria Benitez, Director of Public Relations, for coordinating an impressive public relations, media, and marketing effort around the exhibition.


We acknowledge with special appreciation the project consultants and advisors: Mary Jo Arnoldi, Warren d'Azevedo, Alex Castro, Lisa Corrin, Paul Hair, Kris Hardin, Ivan Karp, Djibril Tamsir Niane, Simon Ottenberg, Labelle Prussin, Lubangi Muniania, Mary Nooter Roberts, Carol Thompson, Thomas Wilson, and Susan Vogel. Manthia Diawara, Director of Africana Studies at New York University, deserves special recognition for coproduction of the videos used in the exhibition. The Museum is grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, federal agencies, and HALCO (Mining) Inc., Pittsburgh, for their support of the exhibition, the publication, and the education and public programs. We are also indebted to the individuals and institutions who generously lent their treasures to the exhibition. Because of their generosity we are able to realize an exhibition that includes some of the finest Baga objects in the world. To the Board of Trustees of the Museum, we extend our grateful acknowledgment for their passionate work on behalf of the Museum, its exhibitions and programs. Finally, to the Baga people, we are grateful that they have entrusted us with their art and their story. Grace C. Stanislaus Executive Director


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The preparation for this monograph and exhibition has involved a great many people on both sides of the Atlantic since its beginnings more than a decade ago. In fieldwork, archival and library work, the planning for the exhibition, the structuring of the text, and the writing of the catalogue, I was offered useful assistance and guidance by many people I would like to thank here. In fieldwork among the Baga, I would like to thank especially those Baga persons who offered their time to instruct me in Baga cultural history. To the hundreds of persons who impacted upon the research in one way or another, I am deeply indebted. I can only name a small number who contributed their knowledge: Among the southern Baga, I would like to thank the groups of elders who consulted with me together, whose names I did not record. In particular I would like to recognize, at Doupourou, Kakissa: El Hadji Abdoulaye Gbonie Bangoura; at Pokhon, Kakissa: Bokari Soumah; at Kobaya, Kalum: Sounkari Tata Bangoura; at Nongo, Kalum: Chief Boubacar; at Basenge, Koba: El Hadji Lamin Camara; at Bentia, Koba: El Hadji Ousmane Sylla; and at Kotaya, Koba: Amara Soumah. Among the northern groups, most consultations were again held with groups of elders, whom I offer my appreciation, with special thanks: at Belebele, Mandori: Brima Camara; at Dobali, Mandori: Amara Keita; at Kolaboui, Landuma: Karim Koumbassa and Ali Sompari; at Kanonke, Nalu: Amara Bangoura; and at Era, Pukur: Mohamed Bangoura, N'Dongo Bangoura, and Salifou Bangoura. Most of my time was spent with the Baga Sitemu, in interview with individual persons. I would like to thank especially the following: at Boke: Pere Dominique Camara; in Conakry: Andre Bangoura, Ansu Aribot Bangoura, Aronk Bangoura, Marcelin Bangoura, Robert Bangoura, Augustin Camara, Bernard Camara, Djibi Charles Camara,Jean-Paul Camara, and Romain Camara; in Kamsar: Armand Bangoura, Moussa Simmin Bangoura, and Yves Camara; at Kanonke: Arafan Yaya Camara; at Katagba: Yoni Bangoura; at Katako: Ali Tehenim Bangoura, Donat Bangoura, El Hadji Bokari Bangoura, Salo Baki Bangoura, and Vincent Bangoura; at Kawass: Augustin Bangoura, Boniface Bangoura, Asoumane Camara, and Benoit Camara; at K'fen: Alpha Salifou Bangoura, Youssouf Bangoura, Amadou Camara, and Lamina Camara; at Mareii: Ernest Bangoura, Totio Bangoura, and Koumbassa (carver); and at Tolkotsh: Amara Berembe Bangoura, Andre Mouctar Bangoura, El Hadji Boubacar Massi Bangoura, Fodeba Bangoura, Georges Bangoura, Naby Bangoura, Seni Sama Bangoura, Amara Fike Camara, Fatou Camara, Gbonto Kande Camara, Ibrahima Boleke Camara,Jean-Marie Camara, Lansana Kobesan Ndetshe Camara, Maliki Gbefemuna Camara, and Nicolas Camara. I would also like to give hearty appreciation and recognition to the many Baga men and women throughout Bagaland who offered their time and talents to reconstruct and re-present the performances of the Baga. This often involved entire villages. Without these performances, my knowledge of pre-Islamic artistic forms would have been very much poorer. Logistics in the field were eased by the cooperation and collaboration of many Guineans. Above all, I owe my greatest debt to my very best friend, Djibi Charles Camara, who joined me in 1986-87 as interpreter but soon became a guiding force in the research, directing our logistics and galvanizing the Baga people everywhere to contribute to the research project through interview and demonstration. Also indispensable were others who worked with the project, including Romain Camara, our liaison with the elders; Bernard Camara, interpreter and guide in 1992; Papa Saless Camara, interpreter and guide in 1985; Benjamin Oumar Tall, official escort and research collaborator in 1985 and 1986-87; Oumar Camara, official escort and research collaborator in 1992; Seydouba Sylla, our guide in 1985; Moussa Kourouma, Director of the Musee National, Conakry; Bigne Camara,former Director of the Musee National, Conakry; Sorry Kaba, Director of the Boke Museum; and for his generous encouragement, the Honorable Herve Vincent Bangoura, Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism of the Republic of Guinea in 1992. Many Guineans welcomed me into their homes, and for their extended hospitality I would like to thank especially Jean-Marie Camara of Tolkotsh, Malik Doudou Bangoura of Tolkotsh, Jean Camara of Katako, and Seydouba Sylla of Conakry. For their extension of welcome to work in their districts, I would like to thank the Presidents du District of all the Baga villages that welcomed me, especially Jean-Marie Camara of Tolkotsh and Brunot Keita of Katako, where I lived for extended periods. I am grateful also to the Presidents and people of the 8 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

villages of Dobali (Mandori), Kaklentsh (Sitemu), K'fen (Sitemu), Era (Pukur), Monchon (Bu'units), Doupourou (Kakissa), and Katema (Koba), and the many other villages where I was received briefly. In Guinea, I was offered the aid of a number of Americans and American employees whom I would like to thank, including Joanna Taylor and Rush Taylor, Director General of CBG, Guinea, in 1992, and Leonard Jacob, Director General of CBG, Guinea, in 1986-87; William Mithoeffer, ChargĂŠ d'Affaires, United States Embassy, in 1986-87; Louise Bedichek, Public Affairs Officer and Director of USIS, Conakry, 1990; as well as other USIS officers, especially Brahim Khalil Diallo, Aissatou Dalanda Diallo, Mary Roberta Jones, Gregory Garland, Robin Stern, and Peter Piness. For hospitality in Conakry, I would like to acknowledge Louise Bedichek, of USIS, and Robert Harms,fellow Fulbright scholar. From July 1991 through July 1993, a National Endowment for the Humanities planning grant helped formulate the fundamentals of the exhibition. I worked with staff of the Museum for African Art in preparing materials for registrarial, promotional, and educational use. Before and after the fieldwork, we convened an international team of eight scholars from the disciplines of anthropology, history, art history, and architectural history to aid in the formulation of theoretical issues, research methods, exhibition themes, design strategies, educational programs, the role of video, and catalogue structure. I would like to give special thanks to those who participated in this way: Mary Jo Arnoldi, Warren d'Azevedo, Alex Castro, Lisa Corrin, Paul Hair, Kris Hardin, Ivan Karp, Djibril Tamsir Niane, Simon Ottenberg, Labelle Prussin, Muniania Lubangi, Mary Nooter Roberts, Carol Thompson,Thomas Wilson, and Susan Vogel. Over the years I have benefited from pertinent discussions with many people in the field of African art, too numerous to thank by name. Among these, not mentioned above, I would particularly like to thank Marie Yvonne Curtis, Etienne Feau, Michele-Berthe Fournel, Helene Leloup, Jacqueline Nicaud, Denise Paulme, Ramon Sarro, and Janet Stanley. Special thanks goes to four persons who carefully read the manuscript for this catalogue and offered valuable suggestions: Charles Camara,Paul Hair, Simon Ottenberg, and Susan Vogel. For her enduring encouragement and aid, I would like to thank my secretary, Viola Holmes. At the Museum for African Art, many members of the staff and contract personnel worked tirelessly over the years to produce the exhibition and catalogue, among whom I would like to heartily thank Grace C. Stanislaus, Executive Director; Frank Herreman, Director of Exhibitions; Carol Thompson, Associate Curator; Linda Florio, Catalogue Designer; David Frankel, Editor; Victoria Kaak, Map Designer; Susan Vogel, former Director; Sally Yerkovich, former Acting Director; and Patricia Blanchet, former Director of Development. Without generous funding for all aspects of the project, the exhibition and monograph would not have appeared. For the funding of the field research in Guinea, I am indebted to the following sources: Smithsonian Institution, Special Foreign Currency Program,for six weeks in 1985 and for six months in 1986-87; United States Information Service, American Embassy, Conakry,for one month in 1990 under the American Participant Program; and the Fulbright Scholar Award, Council for International Exchange of Scholars, for five months in 1991-92. For research in archives and museums in Europe, I am indebted to the National Endowment for the Arts, Fellowships for Museum Professionals, for ten weeks in 1985; and the Social Science Research Council, Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, for two months in 1988. Funding for the exhibition and catalogue has been provided through generous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. For the writing of the catalogue, I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellowship, 1995-96. From 1985 to 1994, my work on the exhibition was generously supported by The Baltimore Museum of Art, through access to Museum resources and salary support during research leave time. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the shipment of ten large Baga costumes from Guinea to New York for the exhibition by HALCO (Mining) Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Frederick Lamp


FOREWORD Djibr:1 Tamsir Niane The art of the Baga is well-known to specialists, but we know little about the Baga people themselves, and our knowledge of their history is limited. If little writing has been devoted to them, this is in part due to the focus of scholarly attention on the peoples of the African continent's interior, who have created kingdoms and empires on which written sources exist. By contrast, the writings of the colonial period were rarely devoted to the Baga, except for a few notices and mentions of their ethnographic character. Little work has been done on the Baga.(One should nevertheless note the work of Denise Paulme, the linguistic studies of Maurice Houis, and the articles on the Anglophone coast by Paul Hair.) This serious lacuna is also due to the fact that after Guinean independence, the "socialist" regime in effect closed Guinea to outside researchers. It should be noted, however, that even during this period of withdrawal, the Faculte des Sciences Sociales of the Institut Pelytechnique de Conakry conducted research on the coastal peoples of Guinea, placing particular focus on the Baga. Unfortunately this work has served internal uses and has not been published; but we will eventually produce a notice on these studies, which cover rather comprehensively the art, history, sociology, and geography of the land of the Baga. This land—Bagate,to use the local Susu word—has absorbed our researchers, who have made a collection of the oral traditions of the Baga, among other activities. This is the background for the important investigations of Frederick Lamp, who has completed many tours in the Bagatai between 1985 and 1992. The problem of sources for the history of the Baga is acute. The written sources are poor, beginning only in the fifteenth century, with the reports of the Portuguese navigators who were the first Europeans to enter into contact with the Baga. The writings of the navigators have common characteristics: they supply brief mentions of the practices and customs of the coastal peoples, but the information given is usually blended with unfavorable observations due to the preconceived notions of Christians about the pagan population. The Baga in particular are treated sparingly because of their fierce character as a people jealous of their independence. One can draw very little from these sources on the history and development of the Baga. Despite the current difficulty of writing a history of the Baga, one can nevertheless trace the major points of their historical development. When the linguistic, archaeological, and other sciences make their contributions, we will be better enlightened on Baga history. As it can be seen today, the history of the Baga involves a long series of aggressions by the peoples of other regions. But the Baga have always responded and protected themselves. Dr. Lamp's great contribution is to have shown that the art of the Baga has been a response by the Baga, a reaction to these aggressions. As monumental as the art has been, it is disproportionate to the numerical weakness of the Baga in comparison with their powerful and more numerous neighbors, such as the Manding and the Peul or Fulbe. This art reflects the survival instinct of the Baga, their will to live and to rise to challenges. In the twentieth century, colonization, Christianity, and Islam have combined efforts to drive the Baga toward acculturation. But we conclude with Frederick Lamp's comment,"Certainly it was a function of much of their corpus to instill in their youth a sense of cultural magnificence that celebrated their ethnicity, validated the common ancestral will, and offered a formidable defense against the encroachment of more powerful neighbors. One wonders how such an imposing corpus of art comes to be produced by such an unimposing and oppressed group of people"(Lamp 1992:47-48).


FOREWORD Simon Ottenberg This book is the first full-length study of the Baga, and it is a major work. The Baga have mainly been of interest to the West until now due to their famous, impressively large, but wrongly labeled Nimba masquerade figure. But little has been known about this object, except what it looks like as seen in museums, art galleries, the homes of private collectors, and an occasional poorly documented field photograph. Dr. Lamp clarifies its purpose, its uses, and its name—it is correctly called D'mba— and places it among the rich complex of mask styles and related rituals of the Baga; his book is a comprehensive study of most of them. Although the Baga are a small group in Guinea, their art, due to its high aesthetic qualities, certainly deserves the analysis that Dr. Lamp has given it. The study is remarkable for its breadth of coverage of the Baga. Dr. Lamp traces them from their probable early home in the Fouta Djallon to the Guinea coast hundreds of years ago, through the period of early European exploration and trade in the area, to French colonialism and Christianity and their negative effects on the Baga, to the Islamization of the Baga (leading to further cultural damage), to Guinean independence and the influence on the Baga of a centralized socialist government trying to develop a mass modern culture (again to the Baga's detriment), to the more recent less restrictive government under which Baga culture has begun to revive and to create new and interesting art and ritual forms. Through this long and varied history, Dr. Lamp details what has happened to Baga arts and rites, and how in recent times the division between Baga elders and youths has escalated, influencing the nature of Baga aesthetics. Many of the features that Dr. Lamp records for Baga history have been felt in much of West Africa—migration, subjection to European exploration, Christianity and colonialism, Islamic penetration, strongly centralized African-run governments, and movements to a more open society. They have rarely been recorded in terms of West African peoples' art, however, with such a broad sweep, yet with so much detail. There may have been common external influences over much of West Africa, but each culture there has had its own response to these forces. The Baga situation is especially interesting as it is a case of strong cultural persistence in the face of powerful external influences, and one where the influence of the researcher on the course of events has been of some importance. Dr. Lamp is no "babe in the woods" as a scholar. He previously carried out extensive research among the Temne of Sierra Leone, a people historically and linguistically related to the Baga, living not far away, and he has made fruitful comparisons between them. For his Baga studies he has worked closely with colleagues from Guinea, and he has been sensitive to the protective secrecy of the elders, to the interests of the Baga youths, and to the concerns of the government of Guinea. He has also endlessly searched the archives in Europe, its museums and its art collections, and consulted with historians of the area, pulling together a remarkable corpus of information and photographs from disparate sources—French, Portuguese, British, German, papal, and Guinean. Dr. Lamp has shown himself sensitive to anthropological matters. He has gone back to the Baga for research a number of times, having the opportunity, after each period, to digest his data, reflect on it, and prepare for the next trip to Guinea. Dr. Lamp has put the "history" into African art history in ways that have rarely been done before. He has demystified the Baga to the West (they have never been a mystery to themselves or to their neighbors), and raised important issues for others to follow up on them and their neighbors. How general has been the Baga experience among other cultural groupings in the vicinity? How can scholars better determine if indeed the Saga came from the Fouta Djallon area or not, and if so what were they like there? Why is the difference in viewpoints between Baga youths and elders so considerable at this time? Was it so in the past as well? How does one measure the impact of the researcher on the people he studies and writes about? Clearly Dr. Lamp's book on the Baga, and the related exhibition at New York City's Museum for African Art, helps the Baga—particularly, perhaps, its youths—to rethink issues of their own culture, their past, and their identity. Dr. Lamp has provided much of value for the people of Bagaland, whether they agree with everything in his book or not. His work contradicts the often stated view of Africans that Western scholars only take from Africa, giving little or nothing in return. His research has been a conversation of the most positive kind between himself, his colleagues in Guinea, and the Baga. It is the way African research should be carried out. 11 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

PREFACE The Baga, who live on the islands in the coastal marsh of the West African Republic of Guinea, have been known to European travelers since the late fifteenth century, though mostly by hearsay. Rarely glimpsed by white missionaries, merchants, colonial emissaries, and even other Africans, they were long associated with mystique, inaccessibility, and defiance—and also with the spectacle of their art. In the twentieth century, Baga objects have entered European art and anthropological collections in increasing numbers, and Western artists have been fascinated by some of their sculptural forms, such as the colossal wooden headdress known as "Nimba," or the various shrine figures and headdresses based on bird forms. Only in the 1950s was exploratory anthropological research on the Saga conducted, briefly, by Denise Paulme, only to be abandoned because of the intense secrecy with which they surround all their ritual and art. My own fieldwork among the Baga began in 1985, and has led to the current book and exhibition. The art objects produced by the Baga and now found in museums and private collections throughout Europe and the United States derive principally from the century beginning in the mid1800s. By the 1950s, the Saga lands had been invaded and infiltrated by many immigrant groups, both European and African, introducing new languages, political structures, art markets, and the competitive forces of Islam and Christianity. The French-colonial demand for authentic art objects, reinforced by the colonial exposition in Paris in 1931, had nearly denuded Baga ritual of its visual wealth. Then, in 1956-57, shortly before Guinea became independent in 1958, the Baga were brutally forced to convert en masse to Islam; and beginning in 1960, indigenous religious practice was outlawed and subsequently severely punished by the new national state. Since 1984, under a new regime, some features of pre-Islamic Baga culture have been allowed to return, and the production of associated art has begun again. Although aged clan leaders maintain and guard ritual material and engage in private ritual, they do so in alienation, in some respects, from their own society. They divulge little to Baga youth, which, although educated to an extent in the Western tradition, entertains a nostalgia for the past. This situation presents fascinating new issues of cultural property, educational philosophy, ritual secrecy, and cultural renewal. When I first came to work with the Baga, people asked my Baga assistant, Charles Camara, what I had come to do. When he told them I was there to study their language and culture, they found that amusing, even eccentric: "Doesn't this American have anything better to do?" The Baga didn't see their culture as worthy of study by an American scholar. They regarded my interest in it as silly. They didn't think they were important. They didn't see that their culture was as interesting as any in Europe or America—that it was something to be valued and treasured, to be studied, written about, conserved, and promoted. My first impression of the Baga, in 1985, was of inertia, apparently because their indigenous culture had been disrupted. People seemed very conscious of a social disintegration, and spoke of it often; they seemed demoralized, disoriented, and unclear about their future. From the beginning, I could see, an element in my relationship with them was their hope that I could help them turn Baga society around, financially, politically, and psychologically. In writing Art of the Baga,I feel a moral obligation to these people, and, in a more general sense, to minorities elsewhere who have suffered cultural loss and disorientation. I write the book, above all, for the Baga. The Study of the Baga From 1958 until 1984, Guinea was largely inaccessible to Western researchers because of the isolationist policy of the country's Marxist government, led by the dictator Sekou Tome. My research on Guinea during these years was done in libraries and museums, extensively in the United States in 1975, in England in 1981, and throughout North America on many separate occasions since 1973. In 1984, the death of Sekou Toure, after he had ruled for twenty-six years, was followed by a coup d'etat and a new military regime. I began exploratory field research in Baga country in the spring of 1985. During a six-week stay in-country, I observed masked dance performances in national festivals, visited several Baga villages, and conducted archival searches. Having previously been made to understand that Baga ritual art and dance had disappeared, I was surprised to see it active. I was also curious to find myself so generously welcomed to participate in events that in my 12 COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

previous work in Sierra Leone I had been accustomed to find prohibited to outsiders, and I was especially curious that this should happen in a country that had been virtually closed. I attached myself to the Musee National, and traveled accompanied by a government escort and research collaborator, Oumar Tall, among others. For three months in the fall of 1985 I examined collections of Baga art in ten Western European countries. Baga, Nalu, and Landuma art can be found in abundance in France and Portugal, the two colonial powers of this area of West Africa, but an enormous volume of interesting works can be found in such countries as Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Denmark. The results of this tour, added to previous American and British tours, include a wealth of museum collection documentation and a file of illustrations of about 2,000 Baga art objects, as well as of some 6,000 artworks from surrounding ethnic groups. Certain discoveries on these collection tours opened up new avenues of inquiry in subsequent fieldwork in Guinea. In 1986-87 I conducted six months of field research in Guinea. Though I directed the project, the team I worked with was indispensable, and Art of the Baga is greatly indebted to the wisdom and guidance of its members. All were Guinean. Some were intimately familiar with the terrain; others were strangers to it. Oumar Tall, from the Musee National, was my official government escort and research collaborator (as he had been in 1985), engaging Baga consultants with me, often exploring particular predilections of his own, and contributing many valuable insights. Charles Camara, an educator originally from the Baga Sitemu village of Kawass, was our interpreter of the Baga language, and quickly became our most perceptive strategist. Romain Camara, an elder originally from the Baga Sitemu village of Kaklentsh, was recruited by Charles to serve as our guide and entrĂŠe into the world of Baga specialized knowledge. Our research could not have taken place without the several drivers and boatmen and their apprentices who managed to get us to the most remote villages, and who brought lightness and humor to our daily life. When I speak of the experiences of researching Art of the Baga, I use the first person plural to reflect the involvement of the entire team. Our study addressed the integrated arts of sculpture, dance, music, theater, and architecture by means of observation and of extensive interviews, at all levels of age and social rank. This resulted not only in hundreds of pages of notes but also in the first lexicon of the Baga language (5,000 words), translated transcripts of song lyrics, and a rich documentation in both videotape and audiotape in the Baga dialects. We worked in every village of the Baga Sitemu and Pukur peoples, and we attempted to visit as many villages as possible among the other Baga dialect groups, and also among the Bulunits, the Landuma, and the Nalu. A primary task in our research was to define a geography of Baga territory, including both that of the various Baga dialect groups and that of the neigboring and related peoples who share aspects of their culture. One of the most important developments of this 1986-87 tour was the reenactment and, in some cases, the revival of dances and masquerades predating the 1950s. Through the encouragement of Charles Camara, almost every village we visited rallied the young and old to reconstruct defunct ritual and to revive ritual that had suffered neglect. These visits to the field were supported by archival research. In 1986 I spent a week studying collections and archives in Dakar; in 1988 I spent three months looking at archives in Paris and Lisbon. There I examined documents dating from the sixteenth century to the colonial period,

1. Oumar Tall of the Musie National, Conakry, photographing Baga elders. Tall was the official escort and collaborating researcher with the research team of 1985-87. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.

2 (left). Comb with female figure. Baga, early twentieth century. Several combs that have never been published were found by the author in private and museum collections, demonstrating the range of scale in Baga art. Wood. H.47 cm.J.M. Kaplan Family Trust, Toledo, Ohio.


3. Standing female figure. Baga, early twentieth century. Female figures were used in all the women's ritual organizations, including Menda of the southern Baga. Wood, metal tacks. H. 89.5 cm. Collection Dr. and Mrs. Leon Wallace, Los Angeles.

located film and photographic material, interviewed French and Portuguese citizens who had been active in Guinea-Conakry and Guinea-Bissau during the colonial period, and copied visual and written material in their possession. In a curious way, my identity with the renewal of Baga culture was revealed poignantly in 1990, when the Baga scheduled their triennial national Baga festival, and Baga representatives asked the United States Information Service's office in Conakry to send me back to Guinea to participate. This request may have reflected a variety of desires—for a buffer against possible government censure, for an imprimatur by a foreign cultural figure, or for video documentation and the promotional advantages that result. But it also in some measure revealed, I felt, a genuine desire to continue an enjoyable social relationship. Consequently, with the support of a grant from the USIS, Conakry, I toured all the Baga Sitemu villages, where I played back our earlier videos of masquerades, and was able to record Baga responses to their own work. In 1992 I lived in a Baga village for six months, again working with a research team of Guineans: Mr. Oumar Camara, of the Musee National, Conakry, who served as escort and research collaborator, and Mr. Bernard Camara, our interpreter, originally from the Sitemu village of Tolkotsh, where we were based. Much of this time I spent interviewing both elder guardians of ritual traditions and members of children's ritual groups; I was interested in the use of both social and ritual space, past and present, and in daily activities, such as home refurbishing, agricultural techniques, and craft. But the main objective of the research was to investigate the most sacred of all the Baga masquerades. I was unable to accomplish this task to my complete satisfaction, for it immediately became clear that the elders were quite thoroughly united in their opposition to releasing their information, which has always been considered secret, the property of only the most highly ranked, initiated males. Since initiations are no longer practiced on any level, the mechanisms for transmitting that knowledge are gone. The information is simply guarded by those who have it, and much of it will probably disappear with them at their death. Although the guardians of the rituals themselves resisted talking to me about ritual, I was able to enlist the aid of others in the community, including some elders (one aged around 107) who were not ritual officials. Through them I gained a satisfactory amount of information. And the intransigence of the ritual chiefs led to some innovative discussion of the nature of secrecy and its role in a society in which most of the traditional culture has been lost, and resulted in some intriguing insights that have entered the discussion and have influenced the organization of the exhibition. Having spent nearly a year and a half with the Baga, I see an enormous work unfinished, and I hope others, including the Baga themselves, will join me in trying to make the study of Baga art and culture more comprehensive than has so far been possible. The cultural wealth of the Baga, and the resources for study, vary greatly from one dialect group to another. As I had anticipated, the Baga Sitemu and Pukur provided the best opportunities; their ritual life was richly maintained through the colonial period, and their languages are the best preserved. The ground for research is also fertile among the Baga Mandori in the north, and given more time I would have made an extended visit to them. Although universally Islamized, they have been the least touched by the recent destruction of Baga culture, and apparently have been able to accommodate some of their pre-Islamic ritual life throughout the period of independence. The Bulufiits too seem to have preserved much of their ritual, and although they are probably the most secretive of all the Baga-related groups, they would offer a rich study if the opportunity were there to spend time among them. The Baga Koba have retained some of the more secular aspects of traditional dance and ritual, and are quite aware of their cultural history. The Baga Kakissa, located


between the Koba and the Bulufiits, have retained nothing apparent. They have lost much of their identity as Baga, and in fact seem disdainful of Baga identity. On the other hand,some of their elders, no longer in awe of ritual knowledge, offered me some esoteric information. The Baga Kalum, on the outskirts of the capital city of Conakry, could give little information on traditional ritual. They have been assimilated to the Susu for long, and few even remember the terms for their ritual conventions, initiations, dances, or art works, except for some youths' masks. Baga cultural heritage surely continues among the Kakissa and the Kalum in the nuances of their current, Susu-ized identity, but would require a focused and intensive study to discern. The Present Work To write this book I was granted an academic year as Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow, 1995-96, at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. This invaluable opportunity enabled me to elicit responses to my work from other art historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists at CASVA and from the staff of the National Gallery. The first two chapters of the book offer an introduction to the history of Western exposure to the Baga through early European sources, the interest of modernist artists, and recent research. Chapters three through six explore the oral tradition—Baga testimony on their own origins, on those works of art that they trace to primordial beginnings, and on the use of art in the creation of social identity. The next two chapters, seven and eight, examine the establishment of a new society and new artistic forms following what the Baga describe as their resettlement on the coast some centuries ago, or what historians may regard, rather, as a reevaluation of Baga identity following the crisis they express as migration. And chapters nine through twelve cover the impact of the twentieth century: colonial overrule; indigenous political and demographic movements; an intensified defiance of the elders that also involves an appropriation of their forms; and the final watershed—the mass conversion to Islam, the appropriation of Baga arts by a new and oppressive national government in the late 1950s, and the dilemma of Baga of all ages today, facing new freedoms, new priorities, and a longing for the beauty of things lost. On the subject of sources, a note on the use of Baga consultants seems necessary: like most field researchers, I paid my consultants for their time and for my right to learn, but I did not try to use financial reward to induce revelations. Others may find this effective, however, and I do not accuse them of impropriety. My objective is pragmatic: (1) the improper relevation of secrets indiscriminately given together with common knowledge defies prescribed processes of access, and, for the outsider, can obscure the classification of the levels of knowledge;(2) this can put my work in jeopardy by breaching general community trust;(3) information given according to a monetary evaluation, and subject to inflation based upon considerations separate from its actual level of importance, can be deceptive; and (4) there is a danger in appealing to greed, which can have no bounds. At a time when all of us in the field of African cultural scholarship have become concerned with the issue of crediting the originators of individual artworks and intellectual contributions, it may seem curious that I have decided to present most of Baga authorship as anonymous. Many members of the Baga, Nalu, Landuma, Pukur, and Bulufiits societies

4. Standing female D'mba figure. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Buluilits, late nineteenth century. The particular figural style avsnciated with the D'mba (Nimba) headdresses is found only with these central groups,and coexists with naturalistic styles, complicating the attribution of undocumented objects. Wood. H.c. 60 cm. Collection Leloup, Paris.


have given me insights into Baga culture. But Baga ritual information is by definition secret; traditionally, it was gained by successive, gradual exposures to it through the process of initiation, which exacted a high price—financially, physically, emotionally, and mentally. This process of acquiring knowledge has been explored elsewhere, as in the exhibition and catalogue Secrecy: African Art That Conceals and Reveals, produced by the Museum for African Art in 1993. This is not the place to rework the subject. Furthermore, individual Baga consultants made their own choices on what they felt should remain confidential to an inner circle of ritual practitioners and what they could tell me; their judgments may or may not coincide with those of others in other villages. Retribution among the Baga for infractions of the vows of secrecy has in the past been severe and sometimes capricious. Although I believe that none of the information I have given here violates the laws of secrecy, some Baga may not agree. I have therefore decided to mask the identities of consultants in the field. I have also concealed the locations of the rituals I describe. I do so reluctantly, with one objective: the protection of the ritual context. When discussing a masked dance, I have named only the ethnic group of the participants; I do not wish to produce a guide to be employed in collecting objects currently in ritual use. Three Baga Sitemu writers—Sekou Beka Bangoura, Mohamed Mangue Bangoura, and Adolphe Philippe Kande Camara—have been invited to contribute to Art of the Baga. Their work has been translated and edited from writings previously in manuscript. Each is an ardent voice in the Baga renaissance, and each has a unique point of view. The Honorable Sekou Beka Bangoura is a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Guinea. Previously he was Director of the government agency SCIO/MIS/Conakry under the Ministry of the Interior and of Security. As a student at the University of Kankan, he wrote the thesis "Croyances et Pratiques Religieuses des Baga Sitemu"(Memoire de Diplome de Fin d'Etudes Superieures, Institut Polytechnique Julius Nyere, Kankan, Guinea, 1972). Mohamed Mangue Bangoura is a meteorologist, poet, and writer. In 1991, he edited the manuscript Patne: Le Traditionalisme Baga, written collectively and distributed by the Cultural Commission of the Baga Youth of Conakry (la Commission Culturelle des Jeunes Bagas de Conakry). This is an organization that is a driving force behind efforts to restore the artistic elements of pre-1950 ritual. These contributions to the text will be attributed to "The Baga Youth." Adolphe Philippe Kande Camara is Comptroller of the Financial and Accounting Services of the Commune of Conakry. In 1990 he wrote an unpublished manuscript that draws from his own experiences as a child: Les Arts et la Culture en Republique de Guinee. Two more writers, Professor P. E. H. Hair and Professor Djibril Tamsir Niane, were also invited to contribute to the book, partly because of their previous work in the study of the Baga and partly because they present opposing viewpoints on a fundamental element of Baga social structure and ritual: the interpretation of oral narrative, specifically the migration stories that situate Baga "origin" in a highlands location in the interior. By including essays invited from these authors, the attempt is made to present a dialogue on this subject, with the hope of stimulating critical thought. Professor Hair, a British citizen, is President of the Hakluyt Society; retired Ramsay Muir Professor of Modern History at the University of Liverpool, England; Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; and former Lecturer in History at the University of Sierra Leone. His edited and translated versions of the writings, in print and manuscript, of early European travelers on the coast of Guinea and Sierra Leone are an important contribution to the study of the region's history. Professor Niane, a Guinean citizen, is Director of the Societe Africaine d'Edition et de Communication, Conakry, Republic of Guinea; and has held the positions of Professor of History at the University of Conakry; Chief of the Polish-Guinean Archeological Mission to Niani (capital of the ancient Mali Empire); and Director of the Cultural Archives of Senegal, among many other posts. Professor Niane has conducted field research among the Baga with his students. —Frederick Lamp The Baltimore Museum of Art






Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal

Lindenmuseum, Stuttgart

Ernst Anspach

The Menil Collection

The Appleton Museum of Art The Art Institute of Chicago

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection

The Baltimore Museum of Art

Herbert and Paula Molner

Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern

Florence and Donald Morris

Birmingham Museum of Art

Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris

William Brill

Musee des Beaux Arts de Poitiers

The Brooklyn Museum

Musee d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse

Jeremiah Cole

Musee Royale de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren

Margaret H. Demant

Museum fur Volkerkunde, Vienna

Alain de Monbrison, Paris

Museum Rietberg

The Denver Art Museum

National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Morton and Geraldine Dimonstein Robert and Nancy Nooter Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco Fred and Rita Richman Jeremiah and Susanne Fogelson Beatrice Riese Jean-Jacques and Michele-Berthe Fournel Silvie and Marceau Riviere Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA James J. Ross Dr. and Mrs. Jacques S. Gansler Royal Ontario Museum Marc and Denyse Ginzberg The Saint Louis Art Museum The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation Sammlung fuer Voelkerkunde, St. Gallen Edith Hafter Mark Seidenfeld Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

M.& Mme. Seroussi, Paris

Ursula Held

Sydney L. Shaper

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Herman

James M. Silberman

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover

Stichting Afrikacentrum, Cadier en Keer Stuart Struever

The Howard University Gallery of Art

Jeffrey Swanson

Indiana University Art Museum

The University of Iowa Museum of Art

Gene L. Isaacson

Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich

Leonard and Judith Kahan

Dr. and Mrs. Leon Wallace

Richard and Antonia Kahane

James Willis Gallery, San Francisco

J.M. Kaplan Family Trust

Hans van Witteloostuijn

Frederick Lamp

Yale University Art Gallery

Pascal Legrand, Paris

and other anonymous lenders.

Leloup Collection, Paris





Among the art-producing tribes of Negro Africa the Baga of the coastal area of what was till recently French Guinea must be accounted one of the most important and at the same time obscure. (William Fagg, British Museum Quarterly, 1961:61).

5. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/Siachalelc). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Bulunits, late nineteenth century. This rare example has a finial resembling a human figure. Wood, antelope horn. H.59 cm. National Museum of African An,Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.(93-16-1).

The various peoples known as Baga occupy a narrow stretch of marshy lowland along the Atlantic coast of the Republic of Guinea, West Africa. Ofie of the smallest ethnic groups in Guinea, they are little regarded as a political force. An insular people, isolated from their inland neighbors and from foreign visitors by a crisscross of inlets from the sea and by the vast swamps that surround them, they have proved elusive to outsiders, and little has been known abroad about the functions and meanings of their art. Yet the Baga have created a monumental artistic legacy that has excited students of African art and has had a significant impact on the twentiethcentury art of the West. The plan of this book follows a diachronic view of the relationship between political and social events and the development of artistic forms. We begin with a very brief overview of the Baga past and present, following cultural watersheds that underlie the structure of the narrative we have devised, and that will be explored in more detail in the succeeding chapters. Baga ethnohistory begins farther inland, in the magnificent mountainous region of Guinea to which so many of the area's ethnic groups trace their origin: the Fouta Djallon, a place of high rocky escarpments, vast grassy plateaux, plunging waterfalls, and dense forests. According to oral tradition, the Baga migrated to the coast in a resolute attempt to resist conversion to Islam. They carried with them their most high spirits, represented by massive costuming and extravagant performance. All this would have taken place before the sixteenth century, when they were documented on the coast. Once on the coast, the Baga "invented" or "discovered," they claim, an impressive variety of both spiritual beings and spiritual "ideas," which they manifested in spectacular forms of art, adding to their existing corpus. Over the centuries, their rich tradition of both masquerade and sculpture developed, its forms reflecting a spiritual world useful to the Baga in creating institutions of welfare, polity, justice, and guidance. In the twentieth century, Baga territory has been continually and thoroughly eroded by immigrant groups, especially the Susu (since at least the sixteenth century), the Fulbe(who were major players in the introduction of Islam to the region), and the Malinke (whose names the Baga share) and their subgroup the Mikifore (whose role as a former slave community has yet to be explored). Also, during the colonial occupation by the French, the demand for African art objects in France nearly denuded the Baga cultural landscape of old masks and ritual sculpture. To a certain extent this promoted the production of new art objects, but most were of inferior quality. The most disastrous period for Baga culture began just before independence, in 1956-57, when two missionaries of Islam from the inland Mande peoples (including CHAPTER I • INTRODUCTION: NARRATIVE ON THE BAGA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


7. Air view of the Baga Sitemu village of Kaklentsh,

8. A Baga bridge over a marigot, providing access

facing south. Large stands of trees to the southeast

yet sufficiently precarious to the outsider. Photo:

shelter the sacred groves, while rice fields

Frederick Lamp, 1986.

surround the village. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.


Malinke and Susu) entered northern Baga territory, in the districts of Boffa and Boke, and literally destroyed whatever was left there of ritual life. Accompanied by hundreds of disenchanted Baga youth and others, and with the blessing of the dominant political party of Sekou Toure, who would become the country's president after independence, they ransacked villages and private residences, plundered the stock of ritual objects, cut down the sacred forests, and tortured anyone opposing the total conversion to Islam. Then, after independence from France was finally negotiated in 1958, bringing the new, precariously Marxist and Islamic Republic of Guinea, traditional religious practices were declared illegal, to be severely punished. Although some secular dance continued, even including costumes, all public indigenous ritual came to a halt. When I arrived I was told that since independence, Baga ritual had become largely defunct, at least publicly. Indeed I found few people under fifty who had any recollection of traditional ritual, and those who had been versed in esoteric knowledge at the time of its demise were now well into their seventies or beyond. No one remained, of course, who would have had the insights of a ritual elder when practice was current. Under these circumstances it was at first almost impossible to observe traditional ritual, and most of our information was obtained through interviews. But we did find two places where it appeared that the ritual had continued, first in some private form, then openly after 1984, when a new regime took power and removed the earlier prohibitions. In a village among the Baga Sitemu subgroup, for example, we found a ritual practitioner who maintained a shrine for medical healing, where we saw three objects of traditional art. Although we did not witness his procedure, I was able to photograph the shrine and to talk with him and his patients. In a second village, among the Buluilits (Baga Fore), we arrived just in time to observe the dances of an initiation into an adult woman's secret society that was taking place in a sacred grove.

6 (opposite, top). Entrance to the Saga Sitemu village of Tolkotsh from the marigot at the east. Baga villages are typically nestled in a grove of trees surrounded by swamps. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.

The Baga Take Control of Their Own Story Into this rather bleak but volatile cultural scene, enter the American researcher with the project "Ritual Arts of the Baga." To travel outside the capital city of Conakry in 1985, one had to be accompanied by a government "collaborator." Several others would also join us—an elder sponsor, an interpreter, a driver or boatman and their apprentices, and often a local attachÊ or two. To depart on the research tour, we had to get "ordres de mission" from the Ministry of Information and Culture, signed by the minister. At each district headquarters, these documents were to be signed by the prefet. They were then to be presented for signature to the sous-prefet of each subordinate area, and finally to the chief of each village. Unless we followed this procedure, we could expect no cooperation from the village administrators or from their villagers; if we did follow the rules, on the other hand, we would be received with all the deference granted a visiting government dignitary, and all our activities and requests would be seen as official, authorized at the highest level. Thus our team of, often, six or seven people would arrive in the village with the highest authorization. Our Baga hosts referred to us as a delegation. Many of them saw our presence as a message from officialdom authorizing the revival of traditional custom. Incredibly, one by one,some Baga representatives suggested that their villages might organize reenactments of the traditional ritual events that had existed up to the 1950s. In the spirit of competition, this idea spread. These events took on the feeling of a renaissance, full of emotion, nostalgia, and the determination to continue with this renewal in some form. Thus our knowledge of Baga ritual was enhanced by opportunities to witness and videotape dances in almost every village. This was a delightful surprise. I had hoped to find a few people here and there who would be willing to demonstrate some of the traditional movement and music; instead I got an overwhelming response from many villagers who seemed eager to revive their traditions, and saw my presence as a way to do it. In preparing Art of the Baga, I have relied heavily on our documentation of what we saw during this tour and later CHAPTER I • INTRODUCTION: NARRATIVE ON THE SAGA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


ones—an extraordinary audiovisual record of twelve videotapes (together running twenty-four hours), fifty sets of color slides, and eight audiotapes (sixteen hours). In each of these villages the elders took the time to teach the young people the dance steps. Drummers and singers were tutored, carvers carved new masks,existing masks were refurbished, young people made new costtunes; generally most of the village turned out to produce a spectacle of music and dance that re-created the traditions of the past. By comparing the movement and sculpture from one village to the next, where the same dances might be repeated, we got a sense of what was broadly traditional, what was local particularity, and what was new interpretation. In addition to specific masked dances, entire ritual sequences were reconstructed, including the boys'emergence from their initiation and a young woman's week-long marriage ceremonies. Toward the end of my 1986-87 stay, one village held a three-day sacrificial event involving masked and costumed dance and an initiation into a secret society for adult men. The event, to which all Baga were invited, was of a traditional kind that had once been held every three years, but had been abandoned for three decades. We were not allowed to see the initiation procedure, but we could watch all the dances in both the village and the sacred grove. There is no question but that our research project—with national publicity, an entourage of Guineans of some position, and signed authorizations of every sort—was the catalyst that enabled this important event to be renewed. It should be noted that the Baga are quite divided today on the issue of the benefits of the return to pre-Islamic cultural conventions, and it is principally those in their later middle age and early old age—those who were youths at the time of the Islamic revolution—who are most resistant to the return. But through the collaboration of both young, educated Baga and a few elderly guardians of the traditions, the reconstruction of some aspects of pre-Islamic Baga culture and the production of art had begun, with the hope that this would help to rebuild ethnic pride and a unity among their diverse dialect groups. All this has offered a unique opportunity to study a people's reinvention. The construction of a new culture based on traditions no longer an everyday part of the Baga experience draws on a variety of resources. The principal resource is the memory of the elders, filtered through decades (in some cases a century) of experiences: two world wars; the French colonization; European-style education; the coming of the airplane, the car, and the movie; and the departure of their grandchildren for the city, among others. Some reconstruction occurs through a few oral traditions that have been passed on to the young people. Since 1985, my photo albums have exposed carvers to works of art now in private and museum collections in other parts of the world. And the entire society, from the elders to the youth, has embarked on a new introspection about its national and ethnic identity. The knowledge we have gained through the initiative of the Baga people is now to be presented in Art of the Baga, along with knowledge acquired elsewhere. Our aim is to recount a drama almost completely unknown outside a West African country once sealed in autocratic and Marxist isolation. It is the history of an art, but also a story of courage in the face of constant oppression and disruption; a story of aesthetic grandeur, spectacle, and monumentality; a story of the despair and disillusionment of a fractured society; and a story of a people's desire to regain some of their lost artistic magnificence, and to establish a social and cultural position for themselves and their children. The agenda of an overwhelming number of Baga people strongly guides the production of Art of the Baga. Whose narrative should we use to tell their tale? There is the story told by colonial administrators and their (sometimes) unwitting accomplices, the anthropologists and merchants who cleared the way for the colony to function. There is the story told by missionaries from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, who described moral worth on the one hand, depravity on the other, as either was convenient. There is the story told by Baga reformers who tried, in mid-century, to overthrow 22 CHAPTER I • INTRODUCTION: NARRATIVE ON THE BAGA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

Baga tradition and establish a new Islamic order. There is the story told by young, educated, French-speaking Baga from the universities and polytechnic institutes who foresee an important place for the Baga in a modern Republic of Guinea. And there is the story of an American art historian who has spent twenty years in scholarly pursuit of the Baga and, when political conditions finally permitted, a year and a half (aggregate) in their villages. Clearly no one story can fully comprehend the Baga experience over the five centuries in which it has been documented. The Baga see the present book and exhibition as above all a way for them to tell their own story. Our approach is intended to give them first right of parol; their speech is accompanied by elucidating commentary and documentary evidence of the sort that only ethnology and history can provide. We accept the premises upon which the Baga base their story as essential to our understanding of their social and religious traditions and transitions, and of their goals. It is our assumption that Baga culture can be understood best in the context of a reality that the Baga themselves have constructed. Despite the length of Art of the Baga, the book can only be a sketch, and is necessarily limited by the nature of its various sources. Scholarly viewpoints will be various, including those of the British historian Paul Hair, the Guinean ethnohistorian Djibril Tamsir Niane, and the author, an art historian, but the vision of each of these contributors is restricted in different ways. The view of the art historian, for example, is constructed out of examinations of collected objects, the study of written and visual documents, and an acquired viewpoint on African art. He also draws from field experience of the daily life of the Baga and their relatives, from which he nevertheless emerges with a sense of the vast body of knowledge that must have escaped him. Yet many young Baga today, who have spent their whole lives in Baga villages, express the same frustrated sense of an enormous unknowability. A dim, often subjective sketch of the history of Baga art and culture is all that can be compiled. Under the circumstances, the account that emerges through a collaboration of observers' viewpoints is the truest that can be given. The study of Baga art history that we have undertaken would greatly benefit from a collaboration of musicologists, dance historians, literary critics, linguists, theater historians, architectural historians, anthropologists, and performance theorists. For what we,in the Western artistic tradition, categorize as separate arts, the Baga (and Africans generally) integrate in a single form. Without the benefit of such colleagues, our exploration of the significance of sacred figures and headdresses gives us only an entry-level admission to esoteric knowledge; like one searching a vast and intricate topography in the night with a pocket flashlight, we pick up isolated details here and there, which enable us to form our rudimentary idea of the whole. We are constrained in our attempt to understand because we lack the tools to examine properly some of the most important features of the art-historical landscape at hand, including music, rhythm, movement, the language of metaphor, cultural references, social underpinnings, the physical setting, the timing, and so much more. Nevertheless, in our feeble way we need to examine these aspects of the art and we have made the attempt. The Direction of the Research The drama of Baga art history is this book's compelling impetus. Considering their small population (not even mentioned in some ethnic surveys of Guinea) and their lack of political integration and centralization, one is struck by the monumentality and grandeur of their artworks. By contrast, their powerful, more centralized antagonists the Susu and Fulbe appear to have relatively little art. Certainly it was a function of Baga art to instill in their young people a sense of cultural magnificence that celebrated their ethnicity, validated the common ancestral will, and offered a defense against the encroachment of more powerful neighbors. Still, one wonders how such an imposing body of art comes to be produced by such a small and oppressed group of people. Baga society has no centralized political structure, and, at the local level, has been traditionally acephalous. Baga history, however, has shown the creation of polity CHAPTER I • INTRODUCTION: NARRATIVE ON THE SAGA






through the maintenance of a powerful imaginative framework of ritual. This framework is constructed of compelling images, which invoke respectively a sense of omnipotent and fearsome oversight (the rule of the spirit a-Mantsho-rio-Pon), benevolent guidance (a-Bol), ideal behavior (D'mba), control over natural forces (Banda), and so forth. The unity of the Baga cultural group has been achieved more through the force of these compelling images than through centralized government. Throughout their history, the Baga have shown remarkable resilience in responding to situations beyond their control, including the incursions of foreign people and ideas generally unfavorable to them. As their art poignantly demonstrates, they have aggressively turned their weaknesses into strengths. The functional concept of the headdress known as al-B'rak, for example,can be traced to another form that still exists, the headdress called a-Ramp (the bird). Examples of a-Bamp date to the nineteenth century, but by the 1930s the young people who were chiefly responsible for its dance had grown tired of it, considering it archaic. More or less in place of it, a new headdress was invented, called Sibondel, which took the form of a box frame with a hare's head on the front and with images inside representing human and animal characters, as if in a play. By mid-century, these characters often included Muslim teachers, military men, white-robed government ministers, and the elephant, symbol of the ruling, Malinkedominated political party of Sekou Toure. In a later chapter we shall examine this headdress in terms of some interesting Baga political intentions. In 1955, when Islam was sweeping the country, a variation on the Sibondel form was invented by a carver named Salo Baki. He called his headdress al-B'rak, after the winged horse said to have carried the prophet Mohammed miraculously through the sky, an image of which Salo Baki had seen in a newspapen Al-B'rak was carved of wood and incorporated into a box frame. The horse's head was transformed into the head of a Baga man sporting both Baga scarification marks and a Muslim cap—a self-image palatable to young Baga men. In the decoration of the wooden headdress Salo Baki also incorporated designs that his son, Fidel, had made in school using such drafting instruments as a protractor; at the time, schools on the European model had become common in rural villages. Al-B'rak demonstrates, then, an adaptation of Islamic ideology, a modification of a traditional art form, an accommodation of politico-religious contingencies, an appropriation from the popular media, an exploration of artistic communication, and the process of social acceptance that transforms a personal statement into a communal convention. It also illustrates the role that individual artists may take, through personal innovation, in effecting change. The coming of Europeans to Baga territory in this century brought new trade, a new religion, new art forms, and the expansion of traditional meanings through appropriation. The traditional Banda headdress, for example, was modified by the addition of a model of a European-style two-story building. This headdress's carved imagery was already complex, including references to the diversity of the human world—to the earth, the sea, and the air, in other words to the entire Baga environment, which now embraced foreign architectural forms and, in them, new ways of thinking. Today, Baga women dancers' headdresses include carved models of airplanes from the fleet of Air Guinee, and of the ship, the Overbeck, that carries passengers and cargo between Conakry and the mining port of Kamsar. Both these forms build on a theme of bearing and transporting that is common in more-traditional women's dance and sculpture. On another level, the European world as the Baga know it has been accommodated through "Baga-ization." By mid-century,for example, though the messenger-spirit mask Tonkongba had fallen into disuse, the radio—the thing that carries news—had become known as the tonkongba. Today, similarly, video is embraced without a trace of culture shock as little more than an extension of an age-old Baga facility with spiritual imaging. Baga art history raises issues of artistic creation and re-creation, one of the most fascinating being the pervasive evidence that the Baga view their spiritual world as a cultural artifact, a world created by human beings. Elders repeatedly expressed this

9(opposite). Bird headdress (a-Bamp) with five smaller birds, two snakes, and several unidentified objects. Saga Koba, Katema Village, early twentieth century. Extremely abstract Baga art attracted the attention of modern artists. Wood, polychrome. H.52 cm. Musee de l'Homme, Paris (33.40.20).



view when describing the origin and meaning of particular ritual works of art, as we shall explore in detail. This anthropocentric view raises the issue of the role of the artist, as creator, to act as an agent of change. Another issue is the role of generational tension as a factor in the flexibility that the Baga have demonstrated in response to crisis. An "age-grade" society (i.e., based upon social and ritual divisions by age), the Baga continually confront the authority of generational status, and challenge accepted social configurations. Children create their own ritual societies and invent their own masquerades and "sacred things," some of which defy the most sacrosanct conventions of their elders. The book also addresses the role and responsibilities of the researcher in relation to the society he studies. My work with the Baga has been unusual because of the way Baga people have interacted with me in the research process; they have pressed my work into the service of their social agenda—a movement toward a Baga cultural (and, by corollary, political) renaissance. A strong, primarily young segment of Baga society that is pushing for a renewal of pre-Islamic artistic culture sees this exhibition and monograph as integral to their struggle. The Sources of Our Information on the Baga to Date Until the present volume, no monograph has been published on the Baga in any field of study. Before Art ofthe Baga, the most important field research on Baga ethnology, though limited to a few months, was conducted in the 1950s by Denise Paulme in Monchon (Bultults) and Katako (Baga Sitemu). Pauline found the Baga and Bulinfits extremely closed to inquiry, and, although she had been successful in research among the Kissi of Guinee Forestiere, here she felt unable to accomplish a satisfactory investigation. Her visit coincided with a turbulent time in Guinean history, which only exacerbated an already insular intellectual climate. Paulme's focus was social structure rather than art, but her occasional inquiries into ritual objects have resulted in a number of published notes (see Pauline 1956 to 1981). Some brief research on Baga art has been conducted by Professor Niane and students at the University of Conakry (Institut Polytechnique Gamal Abdel Nasser), who visited Bagaland periodically from 1968 to 1972 to conduct interdisciplinary studies on art, language, religion, and culture (see Niane 1982a and b). Some of these resulted in theses (rnernoires de fin &etudes superieures), including Abraham Camara (1975), a Baga student, on art of the Baga Sitemu; Rouguyatou Diallo (1974) on Baga Sitemu history; Thomas Diassi (1974) on Baga Sitemu language; Georges Pascal Sorry (1975) on Christianity and colonialism at the Rio Pongo; Abdulai Tyam (1976) on funerary ritual of the Bulufiits; and Facine Yattara (1977), apparently of Baga Koba origin, on Baga language. None of these theses has been published, and little of the work of Niane himself has appeared in print to date. Important work has been produced at the University of Kankan (Institut Polytechnique Julius Nyerere), of which the most thorough is the thesis of Sekou Beka Bangoura (Bangura)(1972) on the religious structure of his own Baga Sitemu; I am indebted to this essay for significant inside data (used here in translation, and reedited). Many theses that have appeared since this outstanding work was written repeat its information (without credit). Others producing original work include Aminata Koita (1983) on oral narrative of the Boffa region, and Youssouf N'Diaye (1980) on Baga culture. Because the work of these students has not reached the exterior, it has not entered European and American scholarship. But it has been widely used by Guinean university students. More pedestrian notices based on brief inquiries by French and Portuguese visitors during the colonial period have been published, and these few accounts have become repeated over and over again in the various exhibition catalogues and articles that have appeared since. They must be used cautiously, as many of them were written after tours of only a matter of weeks, and others by longtime expatriate residents who nevertheless had had little exposure to Baga ritual and art. Lieutenant Andre 26 CHAPTER I • INTRODUCTION: NARRATIVE ON THE BAGA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

Coffinieres de Nordeck (1886) visited the Baga Sitemu villages for the French government, concluding treaties and, en route, recording useful information, including sketches made on-site by a professional artist that are indispensable to research on Saga art and culture. Andre Arcin (1907), a French colonial officer, wrote a comprehensive but somewhat confused account of the Rio Nunez area—the principal source for many later publications. Marius Balez(1930 to 1937), a Catholic missionary at the Baga Sitemu village of Katako, was an interested observer of the use of art who,except for his brief expulsion by Sekou Toure, remained in Katako until his death, in 1978. Henri Labouret, of the Musee de l'Homme, Paris, collected a great quantity of objects for the museum in 1932, and left extensive notes, mainly concerning the Bulaits, which have become the source of numerous articles by others. Beatrice Appia (1943a and b) worked with Bulunits schoolchildren in Monchon for a week, and collected their writings and sketches, publishing some work of disconnected data. As director of the Institut Francais d'Afrique Noire, Dakar, Maurice Houis(1950 to 1953) published some useful information on Baga language and ritual, working mainly with consultants at the Institut. Some of the most-quoted material comes from a single seven-page article by Bohumil Holas (1947), then director of the Museum of Abidjan. Most of this article usefully describes a variety of masking traditions, although some confusion mars its accuracy, with data apparently drawn from brief interviews rather than extensive observation. Victor Bandeira (in Peoples 1972) collected art among the Nalu in Guinea-Bissau and filmed the art being danced, leaving the collections and documentation with the Museu de Etnologia, Lisbon, where it has been used in several publications. Scores of articles in French and English (by William Fagg,Jacqueline Delange, Godelieve Van Geertruyen, Andre Jeanneret, and others) draw mainly from the above European sources. Throughout this literature, one fundamental error—a linguistic one—has been consistently repeated. As the French found the Baga reclusive and insular (and sometimes worse), they relied on the Susu as guides and as sources of information on Baga peoples all up and down the coast. By the colonial period, the Susu had thoroughly infiltrated all of the Baga territory; indeed there was no Baga village without Susu people living nearby. The Susu dominated the Baga economically and linguistically, because of their greater numbers and, significantly, because they controlled the markets upon which the Baga were dependent. Even today, the Baga Sitemu, for example, operate no market, small shop, or even a stand selling 10. Drawing by a schoolchild at the Buluiiits village of Monchon, 1938, done for Beatrice Appia as part of a French plan to develop educational materials for Guinean schools. Masquerades illustrated include the bird a-Bamp (third from left) and a face mask surmounted by an anthropomorphic, horned or long-eared head (second from left) suggesting a type found in the collection of the Barbier-Mueller Museum, Geneva. Courtesy Beatrice Appia.



11. Helmet mask (KentM). Saga Kakissa, probably from Pokhon Village, early twentieth century. Originally identified as Susu, this mask fits a category of Saga grotesque masks that served as buffers for the male initiates against inquisitive outsiders. Wood, red paint. H.51.5 cm. Collection Morton and Geraldine Dimonstein, Los Angeles.

12.(opposite): Mask (Banda/Kumbaruba). Nalu/Baga, late nineteenth century. An early collection, this headdress was exported by a Swiss merchant with the rare foresight to retain the entire costume. The use of Banda continues today among the Baga Mandori. Wood, metal, polychrome, raffia. L. 158 cm. Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern (Sen.123). Acquired 1924; collected by W.Jena!, Miinsingen, before 1916.

cigarettes and peanuts. The Susu were easier for the French to work with than were the Baga, as they had familiar political structures (kings, chiefs, court officials) and were a people of the book: like the French, they were literate, to some extent, if only in reading the Koran. The Susu along the coast were quite familiar with Baga culture, and most had seen one or another ritual art form in performance, if only at a distance, and fundamentally misunderstood. Thus all Baga art forms had Susu names, and these were the names by which Baga art came to be known by Europeans. All Baga ritual, for example, especially initiation, came to be called Simo,the Susu term for anything "sacred"; and the highest, most forbidden male spirit of the Baga came to be known as Kakiiambi-"high as the copal tree" in Susu. The most famous and accessible Baga work,the huge female dance headdress that the Baga Sitemu call D'mba, is known abroad by the Susu name Nimba,drawing upon a widely used Manding term for a great spirit. Naming a phenomenon in indigenous terms is indispensable to understanding it. In Art of the Baga, then, we have abandoned Susu words in favor of the Baga terms we learned in our research from 1985 to 1992. In some cases the revelation of the true name does nothing to dispel the mystery; in others it is essential. We have discovered no source for the name "D'mba," for example, yet we did learn over and over again that the masquerade represents no spirit in any sense of that concept as it is recognized by the equivalent Baga terms. The term "great spirit," then, is erroneous and misleading. And the widespread use of the term "Simo" by Western writers has led to the misconception that the Baga maintain some sort of ritual organization like the Poro association of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. No such national Baga institution exists, nor has it ever existed among either the Baga or the Susu or any other group in the region. Baga polity is not centralized, and each subgroup, even each lineage group, has its own independent organization. The term to-/om is generally used to describe sacred things such as masks, initiations, and dances, but not ritual organizations. It may be argued that many Baga have themselves long used these Susu terms by now, but this is true only in the context of a general embrace of the Susu language and its underlying conceptual system. If we wish to understand the Baga system of thought, we must learn the Baga words. Despite all the sources above, the collected data has been so scant that it has barely been possible to write even a brief exhibition label on a given object. Westerners have been left to speculate on the meanings and sources of forms, and this has resulted in some wildly fantastic interpretations. In lieu of field documentation, scholars have turned to Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Karl Marx,Pablo Picasso, and romanticists such as Boris de Rachawiltz for answers. All this has been perpetuated indefinitely as part of the Baga literature. Some of our most important information about the Baga has come through the enterprise of collecting; in fact the body of collected works has defined our conceptions of the Baga ritual and artistic world more than the literature has. In some ways this has skewed our perception. The D'mba headdress,for example, is exceptionally well-known and widely recognized abroad,to the point where it has come to stand for Baga art. But for the Baga themselves D'mba cannot exist without her antiaesthetic counterpart, D'mba-da-Tshol. As far as I know, only one clear example of D'mba-da-Tshol exists in a Western museum. The latter masquerade may have been less common,and more secretive, than D'mba; it is also probable that Western collectors reserved their shipping crates for the work they considered most pleasing and most easily marketable. We are also deceived irreconcilably by the late start of Western collecting along the Guinean coast. Europeans, especially the Portuguese, had been visiting and even settling there since the late fifteenth century, yet the collection dates of Baga art only begin in 1855, when a French officer acquired a wooden female figure (fig. 18) at the Rio Pongo, where Europeans had set up shop to trade with the local people. This figure, probably from the Baga Kakissa, is of a style unlike any other Baga figure collected since. But as only one other object from the Kakissa is known (fig. 11), we


13. Headdress (Tiinkiingba/Tabalcan). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Landuma, early twentieth century. Wood. L. 81.2cm x 20.3cm. The Brooklyn Museum, 74.211.110.

cannot divine what would have been the Kakissa style or the Kakissa body of forms. By the time the French began collecting Saga art in earnest, after 1930, little ritual art remained among the Kakissa, who had already converted en masse to Islam and had abandoned the traditional structures. The same is true of the Baga Kalum, near Conakry, to whom only three objects can be definitely attributed, and to a lesser extent of the Baga Koba, where the number of definite objects is under ten. The Baga Mandori, who live in a remote area close to the border of what was Portuguese Guinea (and is today Guinea-Bissau), are completely unrepresented by any clear attribution, although many object types simply labeled "Baga" have been part of their corpus, as well as of those of other subgroups. Meanwhile, because of the late persistence of indigenous ritual art among the Baga Sitemu and their neighbors the Pukur(known as the Baga Mbotteni or Binari) and Bulunits (called by the Susu name "Baga Fore," the "black Baga," metaphorically the "uncivilized Baga"), these groups have disproportionately come to represent the Baga in Western art history. Ironically, it was the Bulunits, who share much of Baga culture but do not speak a Baga language, who especially intrigued the French (because of their reputation for the sauvage), and who yielded probably the largest bulk of Baga art and documentation in the West. It was perhaps inevitable that the identification and attribution of objects would become tied, erroneously, to the published history of collecting, however unrepresentative. Some objects collected early among one group—for example the Tonkongba headdress (fig. 13) first collected among the Landuma—became forever identified with that group, regardless of their specific sources. Others, collected through Susu intermediaries, became misidentified as Susu (fig. 11), though the Susu have produced no masquerades or ritual sculpture in the memory of our oldest Susu consultants. It is probably the Western artist as collector who has most influenced the Western public of this century, and has stimulated our seduction by the art of Africa. Baga art figured prominently in this seduction. Of the objects illustrating the "Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern" in the exhibition "Primitivism" in Twentieth Century Art, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1984, the Baga were represented by twelve objects, putting them in an exclusive league of "popular" ethnic groups that also included the Bamana, the Baule, the Dan, the Fang, the Kota, and the Senufo. The headdress long known as Nimba but that we will know as D'mba, perhaps the largest African headdress carved from a single piece of wood, attracted the attention of European artists early on. Their enthusiasm was reflected in scholarly treatises: "No more spectacu-


lar object is seen in Africa than the great nimba masks" (Fraser 1962:93). Among modern artists, Picasso's probable adaptations of the forms of his D'mba headdress and figures have been best documented (Rubin 1984:275-340). Alberto Giacometti sketched a lanky bust of D'mba (Krauss 1984:521). Henri Matisse owned D'mba figures (Rubin 1984:237), and also probably a large Baga serpent figure. Merlyn Evans copied the D'mba form repeatedly (fig. 17),focusing on its angular linearity and interlocking forms(Merlyn 1988). Henry Moore reproduced the angles and openwork of the Baga a-Tshol figure in a sketch (Rubin 1984:597). The contemporary AfricanAmerican artist Fred Wilson incorporated the D'mba in his 1991 work Seat ofPower (fig. 16). And the Nigerian artist Gani Odutokun painted D'mba in a Dialogue with Mona Liza (sic), 1991 (fig. 15), associating the Baga figure with creativity and the inscrutable. For better or worse, we have come to know Baga art through these artists, in terms of sensuality, abstraction, and a mystique of the obscure. We begin Art of the Baga with what we know—with a view of the Baga informed by the agendas of outsiders describing a people who until recently wished to maintain an insular world. Our view has been shaped by the work of missionaries, merchants, collectors, artists, anthropologists, colonial officers, and neighboring African intermediaries. To further understand how the Baga have come to be seen, we shall investigate their emergence in documentation dating from the late fifteenth century on. Once the body of existing knowledge has been presented, the Baga themselves will speak, introducing us for the first time to their monumental artistic heritage through their own perspectives.

15. Gani Odutokun, Dialogue with Mona Liza, 1991. The association of the Baga D'mba with fertility and creativity, from Picasso to the present, is evident here. Courtesy Leroi Coubagy, Accra, Ghana.*


14 (opposite). Shrine piece (elek). Buluiiits, late nine-


teenth century. Henry Moore sketched the a-Tshol,






--''''''' - '11 ootuliafttrt111117044014 1 0 _Apia ... u, ."',' s. 2.1, ....4,13 1 1 -

probably attracted by its angles and openwork. Wood, metal. Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de

,Irp .•••• .,„ 1.1. ...

Toulouse, Toulouse,(144). Acquired 1937; collected by H. Labourer at Monchon, 1937.


16. Fred Wilson, Seat ofPower, 1991. The play

17. Merlyn Evans, Vertical Suite in Black: Helmet

upon leg forms from the two disparate sources

Head, 1957. Modern artists were especially attracted

suggests differing views of power. Two Baga D'mba

to the D'mba headdress for its exponential curves.

headdresses, French-style chair, Bible. H. 189 cm.

Aquatint. H.74.3 cm. Collection Allen Davis, Alexandria.

Photo: courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.



, ;k


These Baga are very treacherous. They kill our people with bizarre glee when[we Portuguese] go ashore to make a quick deal. —Andre Alvares de Almada, Tratado breve dos Rios de Guine, c. 1594 (1964:67) Bagas... are friendly heathen, and the Portuguese trade with them for slaves, gold and ivory. —Fr. Barreira, "Account of the Coast of Guinea," 1606 (in Hair 1976b:61) This nation of Blacks, the Baga... are the most valiant Blacks of all the Guinea Coast, and they, unlike others, do not fight treacherously. —Francisco de L,emos Coelho, Duas Descricoes Sescentistas da Guine, 1669 (1953:58) The Baga never visit their neighbors, neither have they occasion to do so, for their own country produces abundance ofevery thing requisite for the subsistence ofany really temperate man. They cannot imagine that any nation is better off, and believe themselves superior in every respect to all others. —Rene Caillie, Travels through Central Africa, 1830:166

18 (opposite). Figure of a seated bride. Baga Kakissa, Rio Pongo, early nineteenth century. Little art remains from the Kakissa, who were Islamized early in the colonial period, but this figure was one of the first Baga objects collected by Europeans. Wood. H. 37 cm. Musee des Beaux Arts de Poitiers, France (963[B. 81311). Acquired 1881; ex Charles Servant (1855-56).

The ultimate goal of Art of the Baga is to explore the Baga cultural and artistic identity as it has emerged over centuries of quite turbulent history. The Baga consultants who have contributed to this book represent a wide range of thought; some consensus can be drawn from them, but their opinions reflect varied viewpoints developed out of a century of cultural cross-currents. The coastal cultural matrix has absorbed the legendary migrations of the Baga and their neighbors, the coming of the Manding, the Fulbe empire of the Fouta Djallon, the occupation of the entire coast by the Susu, the coming of Europeans and the eventual overrule by the French, the entry of Christianity, two world wars into which some Baga men were drafted, the forced conversion to Islam, the independence from France and the hegemony again of the Manding, and finally the dilemma of the present day. This chapter will lay the historical foundations of Baga identity, using materials that date from the beginnings of Western written documentation of the region to the French colonial period. This history is presented not only as European history but also as the history of the Baga and how they have come to be what they culturally are. We have tended to think of Africans as "pristine" and "unspoiled" before the colonial period, but this is to ignore the long history of extensive interaction between Africans (especially in the West) and European visitors and settlers since the fifteenth century. The earliest art collected on the coast of Guinea must be seen as already a product of a society impacted upon from diverse sources, not of a society closed to outside influences. Baga art is set in this rich context of cross-currents. The history is also important because it defines the nature of our sources on the Baga to the beginning of the twentieth century. Without it, the sources have no context, and we are without sufficient basis to understand them. These sources not only influenced the incoming colonial powers, but they color our understanding to the present day. We begin with European accounts, because it is only with the start of European reporting on Africa that we begin to learn of the movements of African peoples. CHAPTER II • THE COASTAL MATRIX COPYRIGHT PROTECTED



.......••••• SENEGAL




is Bamako








t./ .1 4

• Labi


GUINEA: ........ • • •


•Timbo NALU

••••.. .•••••

••.. .•


• Mamou



...":.•Faranab • • • • ••• SUSU



Kankan •






Iles de Los

• •


Conakry MMANI


• •.• . KURAt;IKO



••••.....••• ....••

•• • •



Language Groups of Guinea


• Manding(Mande core) • Mande (other)

•Pular 1111 Mel

• tte Sherbro Island

Other •

..••. • • •. •














19. Language groups of Guinea. Most regions of

backgrounds, but usually each area is dominated politically, demographically, or historically by one group, so that Guineans consider it to "belong" to that group. Original map by Frederick Lamp; graphic design by Victoria Kaak (see Lamp 1992 for sources).




' '




%BELLE .••• •• ..• • .••

X...• •••. .• • ••• VAI

Guinea shelter people of many linguistic and ethnic





The Entry of the Europeans European contact with the people of coastal Guinea began in the fifteenth century and has continued to varying extents through the twentieth, at times bringing French, English, Belgians, Germans, Afro-Caribbeans, and finally Americans. The earliest arrivals, however, were the Portuguese. A papal bull of 1455 recognized the Portuguese right of prior Christian exploration of the Guinea coast. In practice this meant that other Christian powers were not supposed to share the Portuguese monopoly of export trade, and with few exceptions this monopoly held through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. From a base on the Cape Verde Islands, the Portuguese established about a dozen small settlements on the mainland coast of western Guinea, but most Portuguese trading was done by nonresident shippers calling at points on the coast. Portuguese traders lived among the coastal peoples, intermarrying with them and adopting local customs. Rio Nunez and Rio Pongo in the north of the Baga coast, and the Iles de Los in the south, were regularly seats of trade; the intervening Baga coast was little visited. Trade seems to have been more with peoples upriver than with the Baga around the rivers' mouths. Such early export trade as there was with the Baga appears to have been in salt, the only Baga product, and in other goods coming down to the coast from the interior, which the Baga marketed to some extent. The Portuguese were able to dominate trade in the area through most of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1506-8, Duarte Pacheco Pereira wrote of Portuguese dealings with the Landuma (the "Guoguliis," or Kokoli, as they call themselves even today) and the Baga (the "capes" [Sapi], which must refer to the Baga, since only they, of all groups labeled "Sapi," would have been present at this location) from the Rio Grande to Cape Verga: horses, red cloth, kerchiefs, yellow and green beads, tin, brass manilas (horseshoe-shaped bars), basins, and gemstones were bartered for slaves, ivory, and gold (1905:91-92). In 1594, Andre Alvares de Almada reported on Portugal's brisk trade with the people of an area just south of Cape Verga that probably contained both Susu and Baga (1946:70). Here the Portuguese offered "cotton cloth, black clothing from India, cloth from Arras, red caps, black cloaks for the head men, old and new hats, dyes... tiny Venetian beads, trumpets, tin basins, and salt." By the early seventeenth century the Portuguese had navigated the Rio Nunez as far inland as the present-day town of Boke, among the Landuma (Donelha 1977:99). A Portuguese presence at the Baga Sitemu town of Tshalbonto, at the mouth of the Nunez, was noted on a map of 1756 (Demougeot 1938:287). Inland, there was an important "Portuguese town" at Kakande (probably composed of only a few Portuguese traders), mentioned first (as a Spanish port, since Portugal was then under Spanish rule) by Alonso de Sandoval in 1627(Hair 1975a:87-88), later by Francisco de Lemos Coelho 20. The beach at Roum Island, Iles de Los. These islands were one of the first points of contact between the Europeans and the Baga. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1985.




(1953:60, 206-7),and indicated on a map in around 1680-1700, by John Thornton of London (fig. 21). Kakande (probably meaning "Place of the King"), about fifty kilometers inland on the Nunez near Boke, was the Landuma royal seat until the late nineteenth century. Here,through the good will of the Landuma king, the Portuguese traded with the Fulbe of the Fouta Djallon, and made contact with nations still farther inland such as the Malinke,through whom they wished to establish a line to Timbuktu. There was another Portuguese settlement at the Rio Pongo, where the main item of trade was the kola nut. Here, certainly, the trade would have been with the Susu, not the Baga, but the close proximity would have impacted in some way upon the nearby Baga communities, already dependent upon the Susu trade inland. Other "whites," presumably Portuguese, lived in an area identified by Coelho in 1669 as the Rio de Pogamo and the Rio dos Fagunchos (Tagunchos?), both probably just north of the Kalum Peninsula, near either the Baga Koba or the Baga Kalum (1953:213). Among the neighboring Landuma at Kakande, Portuguese and Spanish Capuchins operated the small chapel of Santo Antonio, where one missionary, Father Salvador, was said in 1669 to have "borne much fruit" (Coelho 1953:82). Earlier, in 1664, Andre de Faro (1945:xxxvii) said that the "king of the Rio Nunez," May Chavela— probably a Landuma (see Sandoval's 1627 account in Hair 1975a:88)—had converted to Christianity. De Faro also described a meeting of more than 150 Christians in a Rio Nunez port (presumably at the chapel of Santo Antonio) to which the Portuguese missionary to Sierra Leone had gone to hear confessions (1945:42). From there the missionary moved on to "Benar"(modern Binari, or Era, a village of the Pukur) at the mouth of the river, where more confessions were heard. De Faro also wrote of a church among the Baga on the Rio Pongo; this church too, as we know from Coelho (1953:61), was called Santo Antonio. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Portuguese trade shriveled and was replaced by, largely, English and Anglo-American trade. The rivers were more extensively employed, slave trading became more common,and presumably the Baga were more disturbed. Portuguese missionaries operated in the rivers in the early and mid-seventeenth century, but their influence fell off thereafter, and Protestant mission influence, coming from Sierra Leone to the south, did not begin until the 1790s. Once again, it is likely that the interior peoples exerted pressure on the coastal Baga. The voyages of the slaver John Hawkins, in the 1560s, are well documented. Reports dating from 1735 (Atkins 1970:40-42) and 1843 (Clarke 1969:168) detail the wretched trade in Baga slaves sent to posts at Sierra Leone.

21 (opposite). A large chart of the north coast of Guinea from Cape de Verd to Sherbro (detail). John Thornton, c. 1680-1700. Two modern villages are located here: "Chellebunta" (Tshalbonto), of the Saga Sitemu, and "Benar" (Binari/Era), of the Pukur. Also located is the historic town of "Couconda"(Kakande), on the upper Rio Nunez. Courtesy the Archives Nationales, Paris(Gr.DD.1172 [113]).

The Question of Impact Through the centuries in which Europeans and, later, Americans interacted with different peoples from the Rio Componi to the Iles de Los, just how much contact they had with the Baga remains unclear. The tangomaos, Portuguese traders living on the coast in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, were probably in touch with the Baga, especially at the prime trading areas of the Rio Nunez, Rio Pongo, and Iles de Los. In fact a few of these traders (many of whom were Jewish, according to seventeenthcentury letters from Portuguese governors just to the north) probably lived among the Baga, as they tended to penetrate the less accessible areas. This apart, however, there is evidence that the Baga area was avoided, whether for its swamps and mosquitoes or for the reclusiveness, even hostility, of its people. Yet the activities of Europeans took place within walking distance of Baga villages just inland, and within canoeing distance of villages farther upstream. Claude Riviere claims that the Baga Sitemu of the nineteenth century would often show the trading posts on the Rio Nunez "that they were formidable neighbors"(1968:741). The Baga Kakissa demonstrated a keen interest in the depots on the Rio Pongo around the middle of the eighteenth century, when they attacked John Ormond's post at Bangalan (twenty-five kilometers upstream from the coast), burning all the buildings, setting free an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 slaves, and killing Ormond's son (Durand 1785-86:147). In the early to CHAPTER II • THE COASTAL MATRIX COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


22. Standing female D'mba figure. Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village, mid-nineteenth century. This figure was given to a French government treaty negotiator. Wood. H.25 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, Paris (78.3.1). Acquired 1978; collected by Coffinieres de Nordeck, 1885.

mid-nineteenth century, Rene Caillie wrote that "when the [Baga] men go to Kakondy [Kakande] on business, they put on trousers and a European hat; but as soon as they return, they lay this costume aside and resume the pagne [piece of cloth]" (1830:167). While the Susu have occupied most of the immediate interior just behind the coast since at least the sixteenth century, it is clear that Baga villages were found farther inland as well as on the coast up to the twentieth century, and would have been in direct contact with outsiders either along the coastline or farther in the interior. Although the Saga tended to insulate themselves against foreign encroachment, certainly individual Baga did penetrate their surrounding world. The extent to which Portuguese sovereignty over the seas of Guinea extended to control over the coastal African polities is debated by historians. But clearly this first European contact resulted in some fundamental changes: large movements of peoples to the previously sparsely populated coast, a growing slave trade, the resulting contentions between ethnic groups,extensive political shuffling, the import of what must have been astounding new objects including new means of production, important additions to local vocabularies, the Christianization of some prominent political figures, and the education of their children abroad (documented,a least, just to the south, and apparently common along the Upper Guinea Coast). The impact of the Portuguese is most visible today in the Baga vocabulary. Some words of Portuguese origin designate household items that the Baga may have imported—the word mesa for "table," for example, and faka for "knife." Others have interesting connotations, such as bobo for "fool"—perhaps a word used between the Portuguese and the Baga ethnocentrically. Many place-names still used today throughout the coastal region are Portuguese in origin, including the rivers Nunez and Pongo, Cape Verga, Iles de Los (Ilhas de los Idolos), and so on. Our limited knowledge of the Saga languages prevents a full investigation of Portuguese input, but the related Temne language, better studied, clearly includes a great number of Portuguese words. To what degree could the Baga have been affected by what really amounted to only a grazing of the coast by European traders, the occasional settling and intermarrying of European merchants, and the Catholic missionaries' rather ineffective attempt over the centuries to establish flocks of the faithful? Does it take massive armies and invasions to transform a culture, or can the sudden presence of one or several powerful aliens profoundly effect changes? My contention is that the abrasion of two such vastly different cultures together would have had impressive and lasting effect, even upon communities only in occasional contact. Certainly the Portuguese of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were little farther advanced technologically than the West Africans of the time, but the Portuguese navigators in particular had certain advances that must have been astounding to their African hosts, and their customs must have seemed curious indeed. The Baga at the mouths of the navigable rivers would have seen the passing of ships a hundred times the size of their canoes, and would have had access to the exotic and wonderful goods now available, to give only a few examples. What culture evolved among the Baga after the fifteenth century would certainly have taken this experience into account, and this more expanded experience must have been the matrix from which developed the art of the Baga as we know it. Some obvious influences would be the incorporation of cloth in ritual costumes, new uses of metal, possibly a new sea lore and the adoption of sea spirits, new stylistic features in art (e.g., long, aquiline noses?), a revised view of God, and shifting concepts of authority. What we cannot know is what the Baga were, or what Baga art was or would have been, without the encounter. African Cross-Currents The earliest African movements documented by Europeans along this coast are those of the people called Mane or Mani. In around 1615—probably fifty or more years after the fact—Manuel Alvares wrote that the Mani,installed in the Susu area of what is now probably Forecaria, had been attacked by various groups of Baga


including the "Calu" and "Daguncho"(Taguncho)(1990:folio 88 verso). The first mention of these invaders had been made by John Sparke, a member of Hawkins's slaving expedition of 1561, who called them "Samboses," a corruption of the name "Sumba," which was in turn the Sapi denigratory term for the Mani (Payne 1880:15-16). In 1594, Almada reported that the Sapi were accustomed to Mani invasions once every century (1946:77). The principal focus of these attacks was the Sierra Leone estuary, suggesting that the invaders were probably seeking contact with European trading vessels. Other targets farther north included the Scarcies Rivers and the Iles de Los, also points of European trade. These invaders collectively called Mani were certainly of varying origins, including probably the ancestors of the present-day Kuranko, Vai, and Loma-Gbandi of Sierra Leone and Liberia, who originally came from the east and the homelands of the Manding. Although they made less impact on the Guinean groups than on their Sierra Leonean relatives, there does remain some legacy. Most prominent is the name "Mmani," which today designates an ethnic group that resides just south of the Baga Kalum and is closely related to the present-day Bullom of Sierra Leone. The Temne, relatives of the Baga, were much affected by the Mani, as their vocabulary, ritual institutions, political system, and kinship attest. The Susu entry into coastal Guinea is long-standing, though by the seventeenth century they were apparently still somewhat east of their current location on the coast(Almada 1946:73, Fernandes 1951:80, Coelho 1953:63, 65,68,216, 219). A century earlier, in around 1506-8, Pacheco Pereira claimed they were about twelve to fifteen leagues inland (1905:95-96), and he is supported by Hair (1967b:255). It is likely, moreovet; that this early-sixteenth-century position was itself only recently attained. This is suggested by words used at the beginning of the seventeenth century in what was then the southwesternmost Susu kingdom, Bena (Hair 1978:80, 85), which was probably in the vicinity of the Mellacore River, just north of the presentday Sierra Leone border. Here the king's servant's title is given as cassane, a term suggesting the Baga-Temne construction in which nouns often begin with the prefix ka. Hair suggests that the word "may be a corrupt representation of an obsolete derivative of Temneâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;sim (sacred), which has a modern derivative, Pa Ma-sim, the official in charge of royal ritual" (1978:85). It is also possible that the title derived from the verb ka-sane, to be obedient. At Bena, in addition, the term for "spirit" was given as corofin, which is certainly the Baga-Temne term karfi. Southern Baga legends of migration distinctly tell of the departure of Baga and Temne remnants from the area of Mamou (which would have been northeast of Bena) in the early eighteenth century, after wars with the Islamic Fulbe. Regardless of when the actual occupation by the Susu occurred, their domination of at least the southern Baga was well solidified by the early seventeenth century, under Susu kings going by the title "Farim" or "Faran," as it is rendered by various sources (Donelha 1977:121,271). They were also active at the Rio Nunez,in the trade with the Portuguese (Hair 1975a:88). As early as 1615, Alvares reported the use of the Susu word Cimo (Simo) among several groups of Baga ("Calu," "Bagas," "Tagunchos," "Cubales") to designate their ritual association, which they shared, he believed, with the Susu (1990:folio 139 verso). Today Simo is the Susu word designating anything "sacred," such as initiation, masks, ritual dance, and so forth, and the term is used to some extent by the Baga,especially among the southern subgroups. By the late eighteenth century the Susu seem to have settled and gained control of much of the coast, especially at the trading outlets at the Rio Pongo, the Kalum Peninsula, and the Mellacore. Just a little later, Peter McLachlan reported that the Baga had everywhere adopted Susu speech (1821:9). Geographic, Linguistic, and Cultural Affiliations A variety of peoples occupy the coastal lowlands today, and their geographic configuration has changed little in the past century. Some of these peoples form linguistic CHAPTER II â&#x20AC;˘ THE COASTAL MATRIX COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


23. Residence, Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village. The Sitemu ("the elders") are considered the most culturally conservative of the five gaga dialect groups. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

24 (opposite). Female dance headdress (D'mba/Yamban). Probably Bulufiits, Monchon Village, c. 1938? Photographs taken by Beatrice Appia seem to document this headdress newly carved and worn in dance for the first time. Wood, metal. H. 125 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art, Gift of Alan Wurtzburger(BMA 1957.97).

relationships and some are linguistically separate, even unique. All, however, from the Nalu at the Guinea-Bissau border to the Mmani at the Sierra Leone border, partake to one degree or another of an extensively shared culture. Together with the Landuma of inland Basse Guinee and the Temne of Sierra Leone, the Baga peoples form the "Temne language cluster"(Wilson 1962a and -b). This cluster combines with the Mmani of southern Basse Guinee, the Bullom of Sierra Leone, the Kissi of Guinee Forestiere, and the Gola of Liberia to form the larger linguistic unit (to which is sometimes appended the Limba of Guinea and Sierra Leone) designated as "Mel"(Dalby 1965). This unit's dominant distinguishing feature is a noun-class system using prefixes to designate singular and plural: "kola nut," for example (to use a word derived from the Baga-Temne and now international as "Coca-Cola"), is kola in the singular, tshola in the plural. Though the Terrine are now separated from the Baga by a hundred kilometers, some cultural affinities remain, such as the distinctive cheek scarification of two vertical lines, and an aesthetic of the human body that each people demonstrates in wood-carvings (fig. 113). Cultural groupings overlap somewhat with the linguistic ones but are distinct from them. Geographically contiguous to the Baga dialect groups, and separating them, are the Nalu, the Pukur(commonly called the Baga Mboteni or Baga Binari), and the Bulufiits (commonly known as Baga Fore); these peoples' languages are separate linguistic units, vaguely related to each other but not to those of the Baga and Landuma,with which they nevertheless share a common culture. What we know as the art of the Baga derives from all these groups, and is itself divided into many different linked cultural traditions. The meaning of the terms "Temne" and "Baga" may provide a clue to the historical relationship between the two groups. The missionary Christian Schlenker was told in the mid-nineteenth century that "Temne"(singular 6-Themne, plural afi-Themne) derived from 6-them, "The old gentleman," with the reflexive suffix ne, meaning "the old gentleman himself," "because they believe that the Temne nation will ever exist" (Schlenker 1861:iii). In the early seventeenth century, subchiefs of the Temne were called "Thaim"(Barbot 1746:94); today a male name, it was then a title, roughly equivalent to the British "Sir' To understand the term "Baga," one must be aware that both the Baga and the Temne pronounce the word as "Baka," with a k sound somewhat softer than in English (see Wilson 1961:1). The Baga people are a-baka, singular w'-baka (in Baga Sitemu; other dialects are similar); Bagaland (often referred to in Guinea by the Susu term "Bagatai") is da-Baka; the Baga language is tsii-baka. The term "Baga" or "Baka" has been used as a place name in many areas of Temneland; there are at least six Temne towns by the name today. Robaga/robaka in Temne means "a place (ro)[that has been] seized (baka)"(am baka ra mi means "they seize my [property]"); some towns of this name are said to have been taken by their present occupants as payment of a debt by the previous owners. Towns "seized" from the wilderness—created in the wilderness, that is, rather than in settled regions—are also called (Ro-)Baga/Baka. And lands seized by the Temne in their invasion of the coast would have been called Robaga (or simply Baga). By extension, the name comes to mean "At the place of the Baga," and those who live in a town named Robaga would be called "the people of Baga"(am-Baka in Temne; a-Baka in Baga), as the Baga today term themselves, and as the Temne explain. The Temne also use the term "Baga" to denigrate Temne areas, such as the Kunike chiefdoms in the east, that they consider beyond metropolitan civility. The Temne of Kambia,far to the north, call themselves "Baga-Temne," presumably because of their position as a Temne outpost, but perhaps for another reason. In the mid-nineteenth century, Robert Clarke spoke of a "Baga people, a bastard kind of Temne," often brought to Temneland as slaves (1843:168). Wuni baka ("seized person") is the Temne term for "slave." If Schlenker was right, as he appears to be, about the etymology of the word "Temne," the term may have referred to the equivalent of a landed gentry or older ethnic foundation, the "elder brother" of Landuma tradition (Biyi 1913:192,



Boke Cacine



55 :53 . ..•" 62 50


63 60 64. Kamsar 61 49'. 66 56 58 59 52 68 67 51 . 54 ." 43 u'.".44 40 .



46 45 42



Towns and villages of the Baga,Pukur, and Bultulits (Susu names in parentheses).

32 38

Cape Verga BAGA KALUM 1 Bondohori (formerly) 2 Boulbine Conakry (both formerly known by these names— now both parts of city of Conakry) 3 Gbessia 4 Kassa Island (formerly) 5 Kobaya 6 Matam (current Baga town and former ritual center) 7 Nengeya (formerly) 8 Nongo Kaporo 9 Rogbane Ratoma (formerly—now a suburb of Conakry) 10 Tomboleya (current Baga town; former ritual center) 11 Yatia (formerly) 12 Yembaya (current Baga town; former ritual center) RAGA KOBA 13 Bakompo 14 Bangoya Yaraya Desar 15 Basenge


The Baga Coast

16 Demabassa (Mabassa) Tomboya Kabatessents(Meyenkhoure) Kararefa (Tanene) 17 Damakantsh (Makinsi) Dimamoko(Caramokoya) Baki(Bakiya) Apattiafera (Bendefiki) Datshen (Dikissim) 18 Gbente Katepa Kate 19 Giape Yangoya 20 Kassambea 21 ICatema (Tatema) Derantshe Damayanko (Mayengo) Demaship (Massipo) 22 Koba Rare Dokon (Rokoni) Katere Tarifani Tshababi(Wendima) 23 Kotoya Katande Duera Balansera 24 Sinene Kalema 25 Taboria 26 Tayeni


3133-. 36 0 37 35

25. The Baga coast in the twentieth century. The "Baga" ethnic group includes speakers of Baga, Pukur, and Bulunits. Although each village is largely homogeneous, the territory of each subgroup is shared with villages of the Susu and other ethnic groups and, for the Sitemu and the Kalum, with the thoroughly cosmopolitan cities of Kamsar and Conakry respectively. Original map by Frederick Lamp; graphic design by Victoria Kaak.

BAGA KAKISSA 27 Dibensi 28 Diberi 29 Dobire 30 Doupourou Tayire Yekya Tabatia 31 Kenende Youbourassa Tonepla 32 Koundinde (formerly) Ganga 33 Kountouloun 34 Marara 35 Pokhon (Pourou) Boulame Dakinde 36 Siboti 37 Siranka 38 Sobane Yareya 39 Sorobili

BULUNITS 40 Dyogoya (formerly) 41 Kakte (Tambaya) Melensi 42 Kifinda Tiliponi 43 Kitifini (formerly) 44 Kramponi 45 Mintani 46 Monchon Mambasso PUKUR 47 Mnar/Era (Binari) 48 M'born (Mboteni)

BAGA SITEMU 49 Awopdarafi (Yenguissa) (now mainly Susu) 50 Batbaga/Kakbaka (formerly— now Bintimodouya) 51 Bukor (Bigori) 52 Dansi (now mainly Susu) Wopila 53 Kabatshi (Missira) 54 K'fen (Koufen) 55 Kaklentsh 56 Kalktshe (Kalikse) 57 Kamsar (now a section of Kamsar city) 58 Kassan (now mainly Susu) 59 Katagba (Falaba) 60 Katako 61 Katakodare (Bogonia) 62 Katongoro 63 Kawass 64 Mara 65 Tshalbonto (Taidi) 66 Tolkotsh (Taigbe) 67 Tshita (Kandouma) 68 Yami 69 Yamponi

BAGA MANDORI 70 Belibeli 71 Biramun 72 Bomfira 73 Bitonko 74 Dabirabo 75 Dobali 76 Kalagba Yenguissa Kasitere 77 Kamelag 78 Kareka 79 Kasbeti 80 Kasomba 81 Kegbassa 82 Kelenpre 83 Keteref 84 Kofogui 85 Silikunyi


26 18 20 14 5 1521 16 17 22




Conakry Iles de Losi l A‘o Forec0

Sayers 1927:19, Westerman 1952:14), while the term "Baga" designated the Temnespeaking peoples occupying frontier lands and perhaps those of an underclass, or, in the cultural terms of this region, the "younger brother." The Dialect Groups The Saga peoples comprise five distinct dialect groups: in order from north to south, the Mandori, the Sitemu, the Kakissa (or Sobane), the Koba, and the Kalum. Documentation from the nineteenth century places these dialect groups in exactly the locations they occupy today (although extending farther inland), and earlier documentation suggests that these situations date back several centuries. Early documentation sheds little light on how the Baga subgroups came to be, or on the origins of their names. The word "Mandori" was known to the French at the end of the nineteenth century (Paroisse 1896:440), and perhaps much earlier, if we can give any credence to a wildly arbitrary map published in 1683 by Main Mailer. "Mandori" is said to mean,in Susu,"Those who know magic, or can do the extraordinary." The origin of the name may lie in the word for "medical practitionerPsorceree"--wu-men in Baga Sitemu. The Sitemu call the Mandori wi-Baka-u-Men,"the Baga who are 'sorcerers." According to the Baga Sitemu and their neighbors, their name derives from the word tern, the equivalent of the Temne them, meaning "the elders" (si-tern, with a Susu ending). Other subgroups consider the Sitemu the "elder" or most conservative group; the name "Sitemu" appears in no early documentation, however, and may have been given by the Susu, using a Baga root. The Sitemu themselves refer to themselves only as Baga, and indeed, among all the Baga dialect groups, the term "Baga" is often used to designate the Sitemu specifically. The presence of the Saga at the Rio Nunez was noted by Almada in 1594 (1964), indicating an early occupation by what could only have been the Sitemu subgroup. A modern Sitemu village, Tshalbonto, is documented as early as 1680 on an English map (fig. 21: "Chellebunto"), and cultural conventions peculiar to the Sitemu of today were described in detail around 1615 (Alvares 1990). The first name recorded to identify the Sitemu specifically may have been McLachlan's "Capachez or Cabassas," referring to the people of the Kapachez River, which today unites most of the Sitemu villages (1821:3). The Baga Kakissa (or Kaksa, as it is more properly pronounced) were noted as a Baga subgroup at the Rio Pongo by McLachlan in the early nineteenth century (under the name "Caxas"; 1821:3). They have been better known as the Baga Sobane, a term given by the Susu. The Kakissa interacted extensively with early European visitors, as they cover the coast from Cape Verga to the Rio Pongo. The Baga Koba tend to call themselves Koba rather than Baga, and call their territory Katema, a word probably based, again, on the root t(h)em,"the elder," and meaning, they say,"that of the elder men." Around 1615, when Alvares included a group he called "Cubales" under those exercising the rites of the Simo society, he was probably referring to the ancestors of the Koba (perhaps adding the customary Susu ending, i or ia, deformed as la). He also referred to a group called "Cubes," but the location is ambiguous(1990: folio 79, 83, 139 verso). The Kalum claim that their name means "at the base of the mountain," but it may be a variation on the term kä-/um, the Baga Sitemu word for "grassland, wilderness." The Kalum were probably the earliest of the Baga subgroups to be noticed by the early European writers. The first clear reference is the report of Fr. Barreira in 1606 (Hair 1976b) on the "Calus" people, surely the same group, as the geography corresponds. It also appears in several earlier formations as the name of a river ("Calus" in Almada 1595 [1964],"Caluz" in Marmol 1573 [Hair 1979], possibly "Calowses" as recorded by Hortop in 1567(1591),"Callowsa" in Hakluyt 1589, and "Caluma" in Figueireda 1625).



27. Residence, Baga Mandori, Dobali Village.

Mandori houses are built of bricks made of powdered termite hill and are lavishly decorated by the young men. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1987.

26 (left). Shrine piece (a-Tshol/flach/glek/Mbeleket). Saga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Bulunits/Nalu, nineteenth century. Some of the most sacred Baga objects, such as a-Tshol, were used until recently by the Baga Mandori, "those who can do the extraordinary." Wood. H. approx. 30cm. Collection James M. Silberman, Alexandria.

The Baga population seems to have remained rather stable over the past several centuries. In 1950, Traditions, the official newspaper of the French colony, estimated the total number of Baga as approximately 34,000 (1950:2); if one counts the villages traditionally Baga, excluding new residents as some villages become burgeoning suburbs of Conakry or Kamsar, the number today remains about the same (though it is complicated by the ambivalent identity of many southern Baga since assimilation to the Susu). This total is more or less equally divided among the five Baga subgroups together with the Pukur-Buluriits. These subgroups are today very aware of each other, and share culture in a complex interweaving of specific traditions. Some of these traditions are shared by two,three, or more groups, and they may overlap, but not coincide with, other traditions. The difference in dialects is great enough that speakers of one dialect do not immediately find another dialect intelligible. Communication is usually possible with exposure, however, as most differences are simply in pronunciation, the vocabulary and structure remaining quite close. Many features of Baga ritual suggest a cultural unity that belies their geographic and political fragmentation. Initiations were centralized. Youths were sent from all over Bagaland to undergo a training at a single location, according to intervillage lines of ancestry related to legendary migration patterns (which we shall examine in the next chapter). When the final coming-out ceremonies of initiation occurred, or




28 (right). Mask. Saga, early twentieth century. Very few masks have been collected with documentation, but most are recognized principally by the Baga Koba, whose ritual use ended in the early twentieth century. Wood, pigment, raffia, metal. H. 39.1 cm.(with raffia). Indiana University Art Museum (lUAM 78.5.4).

29. Janus helmet mask: the Guinea fowl (Kanke). Baga Koba, Katema Village, early twentieth century. Misattributed in the exhibition "Primitivism' in 20th Century Art" at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1984, this mask was documented in Guinea in 1950. Wood, polychrome. L. 38.1 cm. Collection Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Herman, London; collected by November 1950.

when other special ceremonies such as sacrifices or harvest festivals were conducted, they were attended by representatives from throughout Bagaland. The performances of masks and headdresses offered occasions to reinforce the ties between clans and between villages. Masquerades were owned by village sections, which would often compete with each other in their performances. Bands of youths from one village would also travel among the different communities to display their dances, and their village would be honored by return visits. Even today, community groups cohere around a central image that represents one group to another; at a national holiday celebration in Conakry in 1985, for example, the Baga of the Kenien section were represented by the image of the costumed dancer Yokui (Sa-Sira-Ren), accompanied by a lettered sign advertising their section (fig. 240). In these ways, aesthetic and cultural information is circulated, modified, and compared, to be sometimes standardized, sometimes differentiated, contributing to the creation of ethnic identity and a sense of society.


30. Residence, Baga Koba, Bentia Village. More than

31. Baga female initiates with masker. Baga Kalum.

other Baga dialect groups, the Koba paint their

The Kalum continued the use of some ritual arts,

exterior walls in elaborate designs. Photo: Frederick

especially those less sacred, until mid-century. Photo:

Lamp, 1987.

Enzo de Chetelat, National Geographic LXXIX no. 5 (1941).

32. Mask. Baga Kalum, late nineteenthâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;early twentieth

33. Village of Kaporo, Baga Kalum. The oval house

century. Although collected early, this mask resembles

seen here was common at the beginning of the cen-

that photographed in ritual in 1941 (see fig. 31).

tury throughout the Baga dialect groups. Photo:

The two vertical marks just below the eye indicate

Bigot, 1954. Courtesy the Musee National,

the Baga-Temne ethnic grouping. Wood, polychrome.


H. 27 cm. The Board of Trustees of the National Museums 8c Galleries on Merseyside (Liverpool Museum), Liverpool (13.12.1909.1).






According to what our parents told us, the Baga departed from Timbo because of the war with the Fulbe, for the Fulbe had bows and arrows, which the Baga did not have. Thus the Baga decided to leave Timbo in the night. En route, the people of Tolkotsh made a path with the people of Katongoro and Kawass,following their sacred mask. —clan elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992

The study of Baga art inevitably leads one to the political and social history of the Baga people, and particularly to the aggression they have long endured at the hands of more powerful ethnic and religious groups from both within and beyond Africa. A fundamental motivating force for their artmaking has been the need to respond to such aggression, and the struggle to maintain their society in the face of it. The magnificence of their art stands in defiance of this history, and of the very meaning of the name "Baga" (according to their relatives the Temne), figuratively "those of the frontier land." In many oral traditions, the Baga, the Temne, and the Landuma trace their ancestors to the highlands of the Fouta Djallon, in Guinea's interior. At some point (Baga traditions imply the eighteenth century, but written history and archaeology suggest sometime before the fifteenth) the ancestors of the Fulbe (often called the Peul or Fula) entered the Fouta Djallon from the north, and spread throughout the region. The Baga say they were driven out because of their refusal to convert to Islam, and because their settled farming life was incompatible with the destructive cattle-herding practices of the itinerant Fulbe—a conflict that to this day continues each season when the herds descend to the coast. It is for this reason we couldn't live with the Fulbe: while the Fulbe were readers [of the Koran], we, the Baga, were beaters of drums (clan elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Pukur, 1992). Although limited infiltration of the Fouta Djallon by Islamic Fulbe adventurers may have begun around the end of the first millennium, the later Fulbe immigrants who came to build settled communities in the area had not yet been converted to Islam. Claude Riviere summarizes the steps leading to Islamic Fulbe hegemony:

34. Waterfall at Kinkon Escarpment, Circle of Lab, Fouta Djallon. The oral traditions of the Baga tell of their migration from this mystical paradise. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1982.

When the animist Peul [Fulbe] herders first reached the Fouta during the fourteenth century they encountered Djalonke tribesmen of Mande origin. In small family groups, the Peul immigrants established themselves among the indigenous farmers and then tried to drive out their erstwhile hosts. Under orders from the Toucouleur chief Bamba Diade, they began the conquests that CHAPTER III • ETHNOHISTORY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


35. Fulbe men at the mosque of El Hadji Omar,

Dinguiraye, Circle of Dabola, Fouta Djallon. The Saga traditions tell of their flight from the

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culminated in the creation by his great-grandson, Koli Tangella, of a military state in the Guinean Badiar at the beginning of the sixteenth century.... The tanks of Timbo (annals in the Peul [Pular] language but written in Arabic script) noted that in the year 1105 of the Hegira (A.D. 1694), a large band of Islamized Peul from Macina ... arrived in the Fouta.... The provincial chiefs, meeting in Fugumba in 1727, decided to exclude the animists totally from power and to establish Islam definitively in the Fouta by means of a holy war.... Then they intercepted at Hore the caravans bringing supplies from Senegal for the Djalonke chiefs. The latter, in collaboration with the animist Peul chiefs, launched a powerful army against the Muslims but were defeated in the battle of Talansan in 1750 (1977:37). These events documented by the Fulbe also figure in the oral traditions handed down in every Baga village, where they are recited nearly identically by the respective elders. Each Baga subgroup and each village has its own story of the migration from the Fouta Djallon, detailing the point of origin, the steps along the way, the route, the coastal destinations, and often the names of the migration's leaders. In Western reports, the Baga and Landuma migration was mentioned as early as 1895 by Claudius Madrolle: The people who were the earliest to inhabit Guinea are the Baga.... Following numerous invasions in the Fouta Djallon, the Baga were pushed little by little toward the coast;... they are found today only on the marshes of the Rio Nunez, and have almost disappeared on the islands formed by the estuaries of the Pongo and the Kou-Koure [Konkoure]. The Landuma and the Susu, formerly the owners of the country of Kade and the Fouta Djallon, have been overrun by the Fulbe invasion, around two centuries ago, and pushed toward the Atlantic Coast (1895:216, 266; see also 264-65). Madrolle was followed by Lucien Marie Famechon (1900:24). The migration routes were outlined in detail by Fernand Rouget (1906:146), and were mentioned by M. A. Chevrier (1906:365) and J. Figaro!(1907-12:95). Both the Landuma and the Temne share a similar story of flight from the Fouta, mentioned by Westerners in the nineteenth century (Madrolle 1895:216, 264-65) and early twentieth century (Chevrier 1906:365), and documented in detail by Esu Biyi (1913:192) and more 50 CHAPTER III • ETHNOHISTORY


36. Mountain village of the Fulbe, near Mamou, Fouta Djallon. Ritual of the Saga accounts for a migration from the highlands to the lowlands. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

precisely still by a Dr. Meo (1919:348) and by E. F. Sayers (1927:20). The migration of the Nalu, who today straddle the border with Guinea-Bissau, from the Fouta Djallon is also mentioned early (Machat 1906:239), and the Tyapi, a highland branch of the Landuma, similarly claim to have migrated from farther inland (Corfec 1952:17). Djibril Tamsir Niane and his students collected many of these oral narratives in the 1970s (a few of them are recounted in some detail in Bangura 1972 and Adolphe Kande Camara 1990), and we collected several ourselves in the 1980s. They cannot be presented here in any detail, however, given this book's focus on the use of art. (Niane, the first to document any complete narratives, has promised a future publication of his complete collection.) But it is essential to note the ubiquity of these detailed stories, for they frame not only the significance and function of Baga art, but the very structure of their culture and society. The Dispersion of Dialect Groups All the Baga dialect groups, as well as the Pukur, the Bulunits, the Nalu, and the Landuma, give elaborate accounts of the routes they took from the mountains to the coast, and of events along the way. They describe the arrival in detail, specifying the order of settlement by subgroup and clan, the jostling for certain sites, the point of entry for each village, and the sequence of expansion and dislocation. Consultants among the Baga Kalum speak of an origin in the southern Fouta Djallon, at Timbo (a name they believe to be a deformation of their toponym "Timba"). They speak of two waves of migration, and give intriguing details of events along the way. The Baga Koba claim a migration first to the north, to Guinea-Bissau, and then to their present location. The Baga Mandori trace their movements back to the area of the town of Mali, in the northernmost Fouta Djallon. The Bulunits are said to have come in a later migration; the Sitemu call them a-Batsh, "the Crazy Ones," because they stayed late in the Fouta to fight the Fulbe. Among them Denise Paulme distinguished the Camara clan, who trace their ancestors to the mountains of the Fouta Djallon, from the Bangoura clan, who are said to have been already indigenous to the coast. The Pukur claim to have departed from a place they call Binani, a name resembling the Susu name "Binari," for their present-day village (which they call Era). Baga Sitemu testimony lists the Pukur as the last wave of migration from the Fouta to the coast. CHAPTER III â&#x20AC;˘ ETHNOHISTORY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


What the Oral Traditions Say Djibril Tamsir Niane To answer the question "Who are the Baga?" we let the Baga speak for themselves, through their oral traditions. From 1968 to 1972, the Department ofSocial Sciences at the Polytechnic Institute, University of Conakry, collected these stories, working from the Rio Nunez to the Kalum Peninsula. All the Baga subgroups, from the Baga Sitemu in the north to the Baga Kalum in the south, passing through the Pukur, the Bulutiits, and the Baga Kakissa, affirm the Fouta Djallon as their place of origin. Most of their traditions say that they departed en masse from the Fouta after the Fulbe victory at the battle of Talansan, in 1730. Some traditions give the itinerary and the steps ofthe migration; thus certain Sitemu, for example, believe they departed from Labe, while the Pukur of Binari[Era]say their ancestors departed from Binani (Pita), under the leadership of the Patriarch Yangali Atche. All affirm that the Baga brought their masks with them to the coast, with the exception of the Supreme Spirit, Kakilambe (or a-Mantshotio-Pon, the name Frederick Lamp has noted, also called Tamkulum among the Pukur), who stayed in the Fouta Djallon.

ate it? To be definitive we would need more He would come to the coast, however, information. It probably took place at the according to a well-established cycle, to preside at ceremonies of initiation. Then he beginning ofthe Christian era, when the Malinke were establishing themselves on would also resolve conflicts between clans and families, and would dictate the laws the Upper Niger; but without archaeological excavations in the Fouta and on the governing social relations, before returning coast, it is difficult to say more. At this to the Fouta, his country of origin. stage we might note the general acceptance The traditions generally emphasize the order of the clans' arrival, granting the first ofthe idea that the coastal peoples of Guinea and Sierra Leone have always to arrive the inalienable privileges of maintained a relationship with the interior founders. This right is often contested, for the clans often followed each other only by mountains and savanna. They certainly participated in the great Sudanese commonths or even weeks. merce of the Middle Ages, trafficking in Archaeology ought to offer a contribukola nuts and other products, such as salt. tion to our knowledge of the Baga. Before The Peul infiltration of the Fouta intenthe area now called the Fouta Djallon sified in the fifteenth century, ending in the received that name, with the arrival of the sixteenth century with the conquest of Peul Rulbel or Foutanke, it was called Djallonkadougou (the future Fouta Djallonkadougou (place of the Djallonke), after the Djallonke, a people of Mande ori- Djallon) by the animist Peul, called the Pouli. They were led by the famous Koli gin. Roland Porteres believes that the Tangella, who established his capital at Djallonke came to the Fouta Djallon from the inland Niger Delta, in present-day Mali, Gueme Sangan (Telimele), where a high stone wall remains. This first Peul invasion and introduced agriculture to the region; probably accelerated the departure of the the Baga would have learned agriculture from them. The impetus for the first move- Sapi(Baga, Nalu, Temne) toward the coast (Niane 1960, 1970; Suret-Canale 1970). ments in the emigration of the Baga and disThe eighteenth century saw the jihad of the other Sapi toward the coast, and in the Muslim Peul, the battle of Talansan, and placement of the Coniagui and Bassari the great, final departure of the Baga toward the northwest, was probably this toward the coast. arrival of the Djallonkeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but when to situ-

The Baga Sitemu migration traditions bear some attention, for they relate closely to the structure of ritual and art described later in this chapter and the next. The Sitemu generally trace their origin to Timbo, or Timbi-Touni (near Pita). From there they passed through Labe, in the central Fouta, then Gaoual (a name they claim derives from their word ka-wal,"a clearing along a wooded path"), and then Boke, where they left their brothers the Landuma. With them they brought their to-lom, their sacred masked dance, identified variously by different consultants as that of a-Tshol, of a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol and his variants, of Tumbu (a crocodile mask similar to Banda), and of a-Mantsho-no-Pon, the highest male spirit(who,once he had shown the route, returned to the Fouta). Even today, they claim, one can see along the route the piles of rocks that their ancestors assembled in order to mark their way from the Fouta to the coast, and to show succeeding Saga groups the way. The first Sitemu group to leave were the a-Tako ("Those [who said]'Let's depart'"), who declined to confront the arriving Fulbe. They were led by three brothers; Sama,the youngest, left first, but his elder brothers, Tshotsho and Torio, beat him to the coast. The a-Samantor (descendants of Sama) accordingly split off from the a-Tako, founding the villages of Bukor, K'fen, and Kalaktshe. The main branch of the a-Tako founded the villages of Katako, Mareri, and Kaklentsh, with a later splinter founding the villages of Kamsar and Tshalbonto. Next came the Sitemu groups of a-Tfrin and a-Bunu, who had delayed leaving in an attempt to deter the Fulbe encroachment. The a-Tfan founded the village of Katongoro, which was at the site of present-day Tolkotsh, but were driven from it to their present site with the arrival of the a-Bunu. Later, a splinter group of a-Tfan left to found the village of Kawass. 52 CHAPTER III â&#x20AC;˘ ETHNOHISTORY


37a-b. Headdress in the form of a serpent (a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol).Baga/Nalu/Landuma/Pukur/ Bulufiits, early twentieth century. Ritual references to serpent spirits are common throughout Guinea, from

the Malinke in the interior to the Baga on the coast. Saga claim to have brought the Serpent masquerade with them from the Fouta Djallon. This is the clearest example of a double undulation, which is extremely rare. Wood (Moraceae antiaris—bark cloth tree), polychrome. H. 233.5 cm. Collection Martin Trepel, New York.




38. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/lS1ach/Elelc). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth century. All Baga agree that the a-Tshol figure is of great antiquity, and many believe that their ancestors brought the tradition with them from the Fouta Djalion. Wood, metal. H. 52.7 cm. The Menil Collection, Houston (X-1027).

On arrival at the coast, according to tradition, the leader of the group would often transform himself into a bird, to scout the area. His surveillance completed, he would return to render his assessment of the prospective settlement. In none of the traditions of the Baga, Pukur, Nalu, or Temne is there any mention of an autochthonous people that they met upon arrival at their present coastal sites. All our consultants in the field responded without ambiguity on this question that the coast was unpopulated before their ancestors' arrival, except in cases where one of these groups arrived to meet another already in place. The Pukur, for example, were said to have encountered the Baga Sitemu. Indeed, archaeology suggests that before the coming of European trade to the coast, it was sparsely populated. Simon Ottenberg has suggested that the established traditions of the Baga concerning water and fishing may suggest an assimilation with a prior coastal people (personal communication with the author). On the other hand, in the construction of migration tradition, references to a prior occupation might not have seemed advantageous in a Baga narrative that establishes rank on the basis of precedence. P. E. H. Hair urges us to question the relationship of Baga oral narrative to real events of the past and to consider the construction of oral narrative in relation to social and political contentions (see box on "Early Written Sources"). Certainly this is useful, and with the ultimate publication of these narratives, and with more extensive ethnography, one would be able to make these connections. One can, for example, easily question whether the origin in Timbo, claimed by almost every subgroup, does not derive from the certain awareness that Timbo was for two centuries the center of the Fouta Djallon Alimamiate. Since the establishment of the alimamiate in the early eighteenth century, the renown of the Alimamy of Timbo had reached as far as Europe, and Timbo had become a symbol of African imperial mystique, like Timbuctoo (in the Sahara) or Monomatapa (in southeastern Africa). It became the destination of numerous European adventurers, from Thomas Winterbottom (1803) and Peter McLachlan (1821) to Famechon (1900). Yet one need not accept the detail of the Baga migration narratives as history to accept the fundamental assumption of the movement of people at some time in the remote past. Perhaps the narrative as a construction refers in some symbolic way to both contemporary social structure and to the handed-down memory of the movements of the ancestors, but not to either in any direct way. 54 CHAPTER III â&#x20AC;˘ ETHNOHISTORY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

Early Written Sources: A Question of "Origins" P. E. H. Hair There is little secure knowledge of the history of the people known in scholarly literature as Baga. This is in part because of Europeans'low level of interest in the Baga homeland in the past, and also in part because of the limited extent ofscholarly investigations in recent times. (Guinea's postcolonial state did not help by long exiling non-Marxist scholars, or debarring them from access.) Ethnographic and linguistic investigations have been undertaken only since the mid-nineteenth century, and still come to little, with even less in print; archaeological investigations have yet to begin, apart from Frederick Lamp's brave attempt to date certain artifacts stylistically. It is understandable that the desire to construct a history for the Baga has lately turned on oral tradition. The traditions now proffered by the Baga, or at least by certain segments, strata, or individuals among them, are ofgreat interest to the anthropologist inasmuch as they depict what the present-day Baga, or some of them, wish to see as their past history, and thus throw light on contemporary ideology and attitudes. Experience across the global range of recently nonliterate cultures, however, has shown that historians face many problems in attempting to derive traces of the past—in any objective form that can be checked against other historical evidence— from socially functional oral traditions. Since the coastal peoples of Guinea have in recent centuries undoubtedly come under pressure from their neighbors farther inland, it has seemed logical to extrapolate this pressure backward in time and to see

them as chased from the distant hinterland by their present inland neighbors. But given that long-term traumas experienced by the Baga—proto-Islamization and French-colonial rule—have recently been reinforced by the traumas of paranationalist political intervention and ritual repression so usefully described by Lamp, Baga oral traditions are likely to be highly complex and layered. This would render the task of the historian peculiarly difficult. It does not help that the oral traditions are not to date accessible in a systematic and critical form,few of them even being available in print. Like the oral traditions, the written sources on the Baga past—all of them European—are by themselves inadequate for a rounded historical discourse. Not only are they fragmentary, often confused, and usually generated from a distant and hazy viewpoint, they too contain ideological biases that must be taken into account. Nevertheless, critical investigation ofthe written sources, like that of the oral traditions, should bring forward evidence that, in conjunction with the findings of other investigations, will throw a measure oflight on the obscure Baga past. The earliest written sources on the Baga, or rather on the present-day Baga's presumed ancestors, date from the period 1450-1750. The history of the Baga before European contact is virtually unknown. Speculative theories of "origins" can refer only to a period predating 1450, but the possibility cannot be ruled out that the Baga, or the proto-Baga, occupied broadly the same areas for a considerable period before the European arrival, as is now generally thought to have been the case with other Guinea coast peoples.

The genetic relationships are such that it is likely the Baga, Landuma, and Temne peoples had common ancestors speaking a single language at a moderately distant date (say, 2,000 years ago). It is not implausible that at a distant time, an ancestral group occupied an interior region perhaps larger than the area ofany one of these languages today. Over time, differentiation occurred, and a proto-Baga group emerged, which in turn generated the modern Baga. At what stage the proto-Baga occupied the coastline of the modern Baga is debatable; lacking substantiated chronological evidence, the hypothesis of Baga "origins" in the Fouta Didion can only be speculative. It can, however, be expressed in this more cautious form. From whatever direction the ancestors of the present-day Baga reached their modern coastal locations, the written sources suggest—and may be thought even to go some way to prove—that the Baga have occupied these locations for at least five centuries. Any "origin" in the interior is likely to have been in the remote past, and any suggestion ofa direct historical connection responsible for the diffusion of items ofculture between the distant interior—the Fouta Djallon region, say—and the coastal Baga must be received with extreme caution, if not skepticism. It would probably be more profitable to look for the "origin" of present-day Baga culture in the interactions ofthe Baga and their ancestors with the evolving ecology of the coast. Where other influences are sought, probably more relevant than Fouta Djallon "origins" are the recent contacts ofthe Susu, the Bullom, and other African neighbors, and perhaps also the Europeans.

Cultural Evidence of an Earlier Occupation of the Interior The suggestion nevertheless has been made by several others that elements of Baga culture link them to the cultures of the Upper Niger, especially the Malinke. Manding griots, in fact, list the Baga among the sixteen families of "noble captives" who are, by tradition, allied to the Keita of the Malinke (Dieterlen 1957:125)-a datum with correspondence in Baga Sitemu tradition, as we shall see. The cultural similarities bear some consideration. F. H. Lem noted this formal and stylistic link early, with his erroneous comment,"The Baga constitute a small tribe, of Mande origin, emigrants from the interior to the coast. Their art clearly belongs to that of the Bambara [Bamana] and that of the voltaique tribes" (1949:44). Godelieve Van Geertruyen has compared a number of Baga masks and headdresses closely with those of the Malinke/Bamana (1979:34-37); the D'mba (Nimba) figures resemble




39. Female figure (detail). Bamana, Mali, late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Many objects of Baga art show stylistic affinities with those of Manding peoples to the east, such as the Malinke,suResting that the two were in contact longer ago,supporting Baga oral traditions of migration. Wood. H.46.3 cm. The University of Iowa Museum of Art(CMS 575).

Malinke/Bamana figures in posture, proportions, volumes, and features of the head. The prognathous head in both Baga and Manding cultures can be schematized as an elongated hemisphere, flat on the bottom (fig. 39). The a-Tshol shrine figure, with its long beak/snout, resembles the Bamana Chi Wara headdress, and both have to do with agriculture and the shape of the hoe (see chapter V). The Tonkongba, with its snout, ovoid cranium, wartlike projections, and horizontal structure, very closely resembles a Malinke antelope mask (fig. 123). Geertruyen has compared a Landuma mask in the Musee de l'Homme with a Bamana mask in the Rietberg Museum (1979:35). The form of the Banda headdress also recalls horizontal beast headdresses among groups claiming Manding heritage, such as the Dogon and the Senufo. The distinguishing cultural construction known throughout the Manding world as "elder brother/younger brother" can also be seen in the Baga oral narratives, especially in the legends of the founding of the Baga Sitemu villages. In Manding culture, younger brother is a usurper of the legitimate authority of older brother. In the legends of K'fen, it is the younger brother who arrives after his elder two brothers, and is accorded territory and the right to preeminence in ritual, on the assumption that he will take what he wishes anyway. At Tolkotsh, the third brother is given the rank of the first to arrive, even though all brothers arrived together, and it is the descendants of the third who control all ritual. The tension between elder and youth is a central theme in Baga culture, and will be explored throughout this book at length. The cultural structure seems so similarly institutionalized in both Baga and Manding as to suggest an early continuous culture despite linguistic separation (see Lamp 1996). Porteres has cited ethnobotanical evidence to argue that the Baga cultivation of "floating rice" must have derived from the region of the Upper Niger, and would have traveled by river routes to the Baga coast (1955:538-42). This type of rice is found only in these two areas. Coincidentally, Paulme's consultants at Monchon told her that their species of rice (malo Buluizits) is a rice of the mountains (1957:270), and indeed the word malo is of Manding origin. The Baga, Porteres argues further, entered the coastal area toward the north, and learned their style of swamp cultivation from the Balanta. The absolute absence of the blacksmith among the Baga also gives reason to wonder if the Baga are not a detachment from a larger cultural circle such as the Manding. Such a circle would have included a number of languages. Among the Manding, the blacksmith class is set apart by surname, considered as a special ethnicity within a larger ethnic group. Other Manding groups depend upon them, and do not engage in blacksmithing. The Baga today use metal tools extensively, but they depend upon the nearby ethnic groups to supply them. Hundreds of place names and natural toponyms throughout the Fouta Djallon are either spelled in a way resembling the structure of Baga/Temne place names (prefixed by do-lro-, silsa-, ma-, or ka-) or resemble Baga/Temne place names and ethnic names today. A few examples are: Baga (many), Kambia, Sitako (many), Koba (many), Kassane, and Kalouma. This would require further linguistic study to determine whether they are of BagafTemne or some other origin. The Landuma, close relatives of the Baga, still remain east of Boke, at the foothills of the Fouta. A branch of the Landuma, called the Tyapi, occupies territory in the vicinity of Gaoual, generally considered by Guineans to be in the Fouta. In 1907, Andre Arcin referred to a group in the Fouta Djallon, by the name of Waele, who were said to be related to the Baga. Quite a few families living in the Fouta Djallon today, formerly slaves of the Fulbe and today speaking only the Pular language and considering themselves to be Fulbe, trace their ancestry to the Baga expressly (Roger Botte, French historian of the Fulbe, personal communication). This has been confirmed by particular Fulbe men I have consulted. Until field research can be conducted in the Fouta with the families already identified, little more can be made of this. Suffice it to say that the volume of testimony is compelling enough to warrant scholarly investigation.


I would like to posit a pre-fifteenth-century scenario in which the ancestors of the Temne language group (Temne, Baga, Landuma, and Tyapi) occupied, with other smaller groups and together with the larger Susu-Djallonke and some Manding groups, a large territory of what is now Basse Guinee, at least part of Guinee Moyenne (Fouta Djallon), and northern Sierra Leone. A similar scenario has been suggested for the southern relatives of the Temne group, the Kissi and Bullom, positing an earlier continuous culture throughout southern Sierra Leone and Guinee Forestiere before the coming of the Mani in the sixteenth century. With pressures from the once contiguous Manding, especially during the periods of unrest fomented in the rise and fall of the Keita (Mali) empire (thirteenth—fifteenth centuries), some Baga would have gradually sought refuge farther west. Eventually, through the invasions of their homelands by the Fulbe and the Susu, what Temne-language peoples remained would have been subsumed or enslaved. Those who resisted and fled would have marooned themselves on the less accessible marshlands of the coast of Guinea, or, as the Landuma and Temne,clustered farther north and south respectively, to form more militant defenses. In the former case, that of the Baga, one need not posit a massive migration of peoples, but rather the flight of smaller clans and families, even three brothers, as the traditions of K'fen and Katako entail. Over twenty generations or more, a few founding settlers could easily generate a population in the hundred thousands, even accounting for decimation by warfare, disease, famine, and again by dissimilation. In the case of the three brothers, those who claim to be their descendants number no more than 10,000 today. The Dual Spirit of the Fouta The identification with the Fouta Djallon is fundamental to some of the deepest ritual of both the Baga and the Temne—ritual that is certainly centuries old. Among the Temne, the mythical "return" of all officials of the women's Rondo society to the Fouta is an indispensable part of their initiation. Through ritual, the Temne king "returns" to the Fouta at his coronation in order to reincarnate himself as the previous king. The very highest male spirit of the Baga, a-Mantsho-fio-Pon, is said to reside in the Fouta still, and to "visit" the coast only every seven years. The Baga descended from the Fouta Djallon toward the coast with a-Mantsho-iio-Pon (clan elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). All Baga subgroups, as well as the Pukur and Buluiiits, acknowledge a preeminent male spirit who is fundamentally in charge of creating and administering Baga law, and who appears especially at the time of the initiation of young men into adulthood. The form of this spirit varies among the subgroups, manifesting here as a serpent masquerader, there as an immense construction surmounted by the head of a bird. All the Baga subgroups address the serpent spirit, who will be discussed in the next chapter. For the Baga Sitemu and the Pukur, however, another male spirit, who figures prominently in the oral narrative of the descent from the Fouta, is the preeminent one. Among these two northern groups it is the spirit a-Mantsho-no-Pon,"The Great Mantsho," who holds the highest rank, performing the role that the serpent spirit enjoys elsewhere. For the Sitemu and the Pukur, a-Mantsho-iio-Pon is the spirit who guided them while they occupied the Fouta Djallon, and he continues to reside there, returning to the Baga only for the initiation of young men. When this ritual was practiced, initiatts were personally introduced to him, as a masked dancer, at the end of their initiation, and would not see him again until they became savants. The public, including some non-Baga, were apparently permitted to witness his appearance from afar, but no photographs of the mask were ever taken, and no examples of it have been collected. One living former missionary has told me that he once saw the masquerade, but from such a great distance that he could not distinguish details. Today as in the past, Baga elders demand the observance of a code of secrecy CHAPTER III • ETHNOHISTORY



about a-Mantsho-rio-Pon. Little is told to the young men, who no longer receive their ritual education in the traditional initiation procedure. This presents the researcher with a dilemma. On the one hand, a-Mantsho-no-Pon is central to social and ritual structure. To discuss initiation, village layout, prohibitions, the migration, and a number of important contemporary masquerades without an elementary understanding of a-Mantsho-no-Pon would deprive us of some fundamental concepts. On the other hand, one wants to respect the right of exclusive intellectual ownership demanded by the elders. I have therefore decided to present only material that has already been disseminated outside the Baga community, in theses, sketches, and collection photographs, together with a minimum of what little elaboration has been offered to me by the elders themselves. I have withheld information that may jeopardize secrecy, and particularly details that outsiders may find abhorrent. What follows, then, is only an elementary introduction to a-Mantsho-rio-Ponâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;information similar to what any keen observer might have seen and heard when the ritual was current. I beg the indulgence of any elders who may feel I have crossed the line. The meaning of the name "Mantsho" is unclear. Circumspect about this supreme spirit, Baga consultants seemed not to entertain a traditional etymology. Perhaps the word derives from Mande praise vocabulary, such as the Manding term masalmansalmantsha, meaning "chief" or "king," or the Susu word mantoi, "prophet"(Lacan 1942:367). Thus the full name "a-Mantsho-rio-Pon," combining the Manding noun with the Baga adjective, would mean "The Great Chief" or "The Great Prophet." A-Mantsho-rio-Pon was also known by several other, more commonly used generic names that will appear in Baga texts: Aparan (among the a-Tako) or Aparen (among the a-Bunu) "Teacher of the Ritual Chiefs" Dusam-a-Be (Blez Bangoura 1974:52) wu-Them/wu-Tem "The Old Man" wu-R'kun "The Man" "The Grandfather"

The Susu called this spirit Kakilambe, the name by which he is better known. But this name, meaning "Reaching as high as the copal tree," is problematic, not only because it reflects an outsider's view but because it is frequently confused by the Susu, and thus by Western writers, with another Baga masquerade, that of the serpent headdress a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol, which will be discussed in the next chapter. On the basis of just a few existing notices and sketches, we can begin to describe A-Mantsho-iio-Pon. An early reference appears to be implied by Rene Caillie: Among the peoples who live on the banks of the Rio Nunez there exists a secret society....This society, which has a chief(who is also a magistrate), is known as the Simo....This chief keeps to the woods and remains unknown to those who are strangers to his mysteries. His acolytes are young people who are only partially initiated into his secrets. He assumes various disguises: sometimes he adopts the guise of a pelican.... He comes to the place in disguise, to circumcise the children ...;the ceremony is accompanied by a great feast, at the expense of the parents, who contribute according to their respective means. The feast lasts sometimes for several days; after it is over, the Simo withdraws to the woods, and takes with him the boys who have been initiated.... On the festival day, the Simo again announces his approach by frightful howlings, which are imitated by his pupils with cows' horns. They are all armed with whips, in token of their authority. Those who have been formerly initiated, and reside in the neighboring villages, collect and join in the rejoicings (1830:153-55).



40. "Kalcilambe, the most fearsome of the Simos."


By a Catholic missionary of the Peres du Saint-Esprit, probably Pere Feuillet, before 1930. Kakilambe or




supreme male spirit of the Sitemu subgroup, and is

lijkl Ye/

aar I/1 â&#x20AC;˘


a-Mantsho-tio-Pon (as the Baga call him) was the


r)G1 c')

said to reside still in the Fouta Djallon. Watercolor. Courtesy the Pontificio Museo Missionario Ethnologico, Vatican City.

royan ce.r.

deo 475,7-10,".

, Aka..

In 1885, the French Catholic missionary Jean-Baptiste Raimbault, based at the Rio Pongo, described a similar image in his description of the Boffa area, suggesting that the Baga Kakissa may also have had the masquerade of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon: The ordeal [of male initiation] terminated, the chief makes the [initiate] eat the Simo. He conducts him in front of a scaffolding surmounted by a head of wood,to which he poses the following questions: "Simo (he calls in this way the spirit who is supposed to reside inside the idol), do you wish to receive among us the said person here?" At each question the head responds by a sign of assent, and it strikes up an infernal racket throughout the entire structure (1885:60). This corresponds closely to a Sitemu initiation ritual (described in a later chapter) in which a-Mantsho-rio-Pon is said to "tremble" and "shake," to answer inquiries from his ritual practitioners with a shrill whistle, and to see what is going on around him with his entire body. Early reports from the French Catholic mission at Katako detailed the a-Mantsho-flo-Pon masquerade there: Kaklembe [Kakilambe] is a fetish that often reaches ten meters high: it is composed of a mobile scaffolding carried by ten or fifteen men, hidden under a costume of garish fabrics and palm leaves. The idol terminates in the head of a bird: at its upper part is fitted a sort of cage where an initiated person sits. This brotherhood lets loose dismal screams which are supposed to come from CHAPTER III â&#x20AC;˘ ETHNOHISTORY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


the fetish itself. The procession of this fetish takes place approximately once every ten years. Any noninitiate who would dare to watch would immediately be put to death. Also, the women and children crouch down deeply in their houses when Kaklembe emerges from the sacred forest to promenade in the village(Voix, IV, 3, 1929:15). Pere Feuillet actually found himself face to face with "Kaklembe."... The scaffolding—because it is a veritable ambulant scaffold—is carried by about ten men hidden under a costume of fibers and dried leaves. I believe truly that "Kaklembe" is one of the most terrible fetishes. ...I recall that he sketched it on a piece of paper(Voix, V, 7, 1930:14). A few sketches exist that help us to envision the grand spectacle that was a-Mantsho-fio-Pon. The most revealing one was done in watercolor or ink, probably before 1930, by an anonymous Catholic missionary of the Peres du Saint-Esprit. No one at the mission at Katako today, where the sketch must have been executed, knows who might have drawn it, but it was most likely the above-mentioned Pere Feuillet. The drawing now lies in the archives of the Pontificio Museo Missionario Ethnologico, in the Vatican (fig. 40). Several sketches of other Baga masquerades accompany it, and these other pictures, unlike the a-Mantsho-fio-Pon drawing, can be compared with photographs of the relevant masquerades from the same period; they are all quite inaccurate. It should be assumed, then, that the sketch of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon also contains inaccuracies. Much of the detail, however, was confirmed by our consultants. Writing in 1932, Carl Kjersmeier recalled his own search for the headdress, aided by a sketch that was probably the same watercolor now in the Vatican: We did not see...the largest of all Baga masks, Kaklembe, which is fifteen meters high and resembles a tower. At its top sits a man who calls out a warning to all not initiated; they must stay away. It seems understandable that we did not see anything of this giant mask, which must be carried by about twenty men. It is only in use every fourteen years and the younger generation of Baga has never seen it. I brought along a drawing of Kaklembe and everywhere it was studied with the greatest interest (1932:199-200). Only one sketch (fig. 41) has ever been published: that of Paulme's consultant at Monchon (1962:67). Paulme apparently failed to catch its significance, simply labeling it "Baga mask, Guinea," with no reference to it in her text, and no indication of whether it illustrated a masquerade of the Monchon Bulufiits or of another group. The Buluiiits have a close relationship with the Pukur, and are privy to Pukur ritual, so it is reasonable to imagine that a Bulufiits youth might have seen the Pukur spirit. On the other hand, testimony is ambiguous as to whether the Bulufiits actually had their own version of this towering beaked eminence. The appearance of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon was terrifying for all but the elder savants, and particularly for the uninitiated. Consultants often spoke of his function in helping the Baga to maintain their control over the coastal region, terrorizing outsiders who posed a risk to them, such as the Susu or the Fulbe. Thus allegiance to a-Mantsho-fio-Pon defined identity in positive and negative, inclusive and exclusive ways. Dual Village Alignment: The Many and the Few The Baga trace their migrations to several separate waves (resulting in the distinct tribes that now occupy the coast), and rights and allegiances to a-Mantsho-no-Pon are delineated according to the sequence of the founding clans' arrival. Various possibilities are suggested by these delineations. Perhaps what the Baga refer to as migrating Baga clans were really unrelated groups, maybe even speaking different languages, who were forced out of the Fouta and arrived on the coast to form the 60 CHAPTER III • ETHNOHISTORY


modern Baga. This might account for the minute differences in culture and language from village to village in the small area occupied by the Saga Sitemu, Pukur, and Buluilits. A detailed linguistic study of the Baga and other area languages would help, but is nonexistent at the present. On the other hand, the ancient clans may have been related, and the tensions evident in this century between one Baga group and another may simply date to antiquity. According to the traditions, the earliest arriving tribes, the a-Tako and the a-Samantor, brought the ritual of a-Mantsho-tio-Pon with them; he goes among them by the name "Somtup." The second pair of tribes to arrive, the a-Tfan and the a-Bunu, are said to have been ostracized upon their arrival by the Somtup group, but were permitted to form their own alliance, with an allegiance to a-Mantsho-noPon through a separate form,"BogWish." All Baga Sitemu and Pukur are organized under these two identities. Three Sitemu villages plus the Pukur belong to the spirit Boglansh; the rest of the Sitemu villages belong to the spirit Somtup.

Migration Groups of the Baga Sitemu and Their Destinations Kaklentsh Katako 1st


Mardi Kamsar






Key:(SOMTUP) (a-Bunu) (Katako) (Kawass)







name of patron spirit name of migration group (tribe) name of principal village settled name of later village settled

Still other Baga groups are distinguished by being excluded, or by deliberately excluding themselves, from identity with a-Mantsho-no-Pon. They are associated instead with other, somewhat competing patron spirits, such as a-Mantsho-lia-Tshol, the serpent spirit. It is fundamentally the art object and its representation that define Baga tribal allegiance. Although the Pukur were permitted to join the a-Bunu and a-Tfan in allegiance to Boglinsh, they also maintained versions of their own,some with horns, going by the names "Pantshaman," at the village of M'born, and "Tamkulum" and "Tambui," at Era. A Pantshaman headdress collected in the 1950s at M'born measures about 141 centimeters from the base of the neck to the tip of the horns (fig. 42). This may be CHAPTER III â&#x20AC;˘ ETHNOHISTORY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED




the headdress, or its type, that was sketched by Paulme's consultant at Monchon, who would have had access to the masquerade at M'born through the relationship between the Bulunits and the Pukur. Succeeding chapters will further examine the role of a-Mantsho-no-Pon in defining Baga identity, and in defining Baga age grades in initiation. Though the spirit is almost unheard of outside Baga circles, it—more than any other Baga spirit manifestation—is a source of Baga self-image in relation to other ethnic groups, other Baga tribes, other clans of gendered alliance, and other generations of Baga confreres. A-Mantsho-rio-Pon embodies the deep sense of Baga heritage seen in the tradition of the common descent from Fouta.

41 (opposite). Sketch of the supreme male spirit, probably Pukur, by Moussa Bangoura, a Bulunits youth from Monchon Village. This is the only previously published illustration of this masquerade, drawn

for Denise Paulme by her consultant at Monchon. Courtesy Denise Paulme.

42. Headdress (Pantshamin). Pukur, Mbor'n Village, late nineteenth—early twentieth century. Pantshaman was the Pukur version of the supreme male spirit. Wood, polychrome. H.141 cm. private collection, Paris, collected c. 1956.





Villages of the Baga, Pukur, and Buluriits are divided into quartiers (a-bayika, in the Baga dialects), sometimes called "tribes" among the Baga themselves. These quartiers generally number from two to four per village. Their names are often found in more than one village, sometimes because of migration: there are quartiers of Katongoro, for example, that are said to have been settled by ancestors from the quartiers of the same name at Tolkotsh. Quartiers are ranked according to the sequence of the respective tribes' arrival from the Fouta Djallon in the oral narratives. (In Tolkotsh, for example, the Kagbenene quartier ranks first.) These ranks affect issues such as the supervision of ritual and the progression of ritual dance through the village. Each village quartier is in turn divided into as many as five or six clans, variously called ku-sunka, "the doorway"; la-lo disre, "inside the house"; or kor, "belly." These clans are also ranked according to arrival sequence; the clan descending from the founding ancestor of the quartier is preeminent. Village government is managed through the clan, or through the single elder who represents each clan in secret assembly. Today, however, this system operates more in principle than in fact, because of the diminishing of the elders' power with the installation of chiefs in the colonial period and with the campaigns against indigenous ritual structure in the period following independence. The clan elder exercised both ritual and temporal power, indicated by the names wä-nde ("the seated one") and wä-be ("chief"). The Masculine and Feminine Moieties Throughout Bagaland, clans within each village are assigned to moieties identified as masculine and feminine. Among the Bulunits, the moieties divide their allegiance between a male and female version of the same serpent spirit type; among the southcentral Baga subgroups, the serpent is the dominant male spirit, but is accompanied, according to some, by a female spirit of a different form. For the Baga Sitemu and the Pukur, male moieties are aligned with the monumental bird masquerade a-Mantshono-Pon (Somtup or Boglansh), female moieties with a female high spirit, a-Bol. These moieties are meant to be inclusive and interconnected in nature, not divisive. All Sitemu and Pukur villagers may participate in the ritual of both the male and the female high spirit, but only members of the respective moiety are initiated into the esoteric knowledge concerning each spirit and are responsible for each ritual system. To understand traditional Baga society and its ritual art, one must understand the structure and nature of these two guiding ritual lines.

43. Dance for a-Bol, Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. For the dance dedicated to the supreme spirit of the female moiety, the men dress as women. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1986.

The people of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon did not understand the secret of a-Bol. I have been initiated to a-Bol, but I do not know its secrets, because I am of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon. Those of a-Bol do not know the secrets of a-Mantsho-rioPon. They were initiated to a-Mantsho-no-Pon, but they do not know his secrets. Everyone concerned would keep the true secrets of his own to-lom [sacred ritual]. CHAPTER IV • MASCULINE AND FEMININE CLANS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


44. The ka-lo-ka-pon, "the Great House"—a clan's sacred shrine, Baga Sitemu. It is here, in the care of the clan elder, that the sacred objects of the clan are kept in each village. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.

The wo-lo-wo-pon [great houses, or sacred houses; singular kä-lo-kä-pon] had their degrees of importance. The most important were those of a-Mantsho-lioPon and a-Bol. Any time the elders of the village needed to meet, they went to one of the great altars, the wo-lo-wo-pan, either the altar of a-Mantsho-floPon or that of a-Bol (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). The responsibility to either a-Mantsho-no-Pon or a-Bol follows the lines of migration previously outlined in the box "Migration Groups of the Baga Sitemu and Their Destinations," in chapter III. We have already seen how the sequence of these migrations divided the Baga into allegiances to two separate versions of a-Mantsho-iio-Pon—either Somtup or Boglansh. These separated the Baga Sitemu into two different groups of villages. But the moieties within each village owe their organization to the further story of the migrations. Following the arrival of first the a-Tako and a-Samantor and then the a-Tfan and a-Bunu, according to the oral narratives, there followed two other Baga tribes: first the ka-Tom and finally the ta-Bol. These tribes did not form separate villages, as the four early-arriving tribes did, but were absorbed into the existing Baga Sitemu villages. Among the Somtup group, the ka-Tom settled at Katako; among the BOglansh group, they settled at Tolkotsh and Katongoro. The ta-Bol were rejected in most Baga villages, and finally settled only among the Somtup group at Bukor. The ka-Tom are said to have been assimilated, back in the Fouta Djallon, to the neighboring Manding, of the Keita clan, and Keita is their surname today; the ta-Bol are said to have been the only Baga group in the Fouta Djallon to have been already Islamized by the Fulbe before their departure for the coast. These two tribes, as we shall see, played an important part in the establishment of moieties and the creation of spiritual alliances. As not all Sitemu villages have ka-Tom and ta-Bol tribes, adjustments are made to accommodate the particular ritual of the female moiety usually controlled by these two tribes. In the village of Kaklentsh, for example, which claims to have rejected the ka-Tom, a-Bol is tended by other groups: the Kansamblam-Kurori, an assimilated clan, and, curiously, the Daiikambe, descendants of the first clan to settle Kaklentsh (therefore of highest status). Obviously, then, a variety of considerations are at play in the division into moieties. Two villages, Kamsar and its offshoot Tshalbonto, are excepted from the moiety scheme altogether, having no clans devoted to the feminine principle. The complexity of the division into moieties within one village is shown in the box "Tolkotsh Village: Structure of Families," p. 69, and in the map of Tolkotsh 66 CHAPTER IV • MASCULINE AND FEMININE CLANS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

(fig. 45). The moieties do not settle into any clearly defined opposition, either spatially or by kinship. Although quartiers can be of a single moiety (the Kamala quartier, for example, is entirely of a masculine moiety), some are mixed. Kagbenene is basically of the feminine moiety, except for a single family of foreign origin, inserted upon their arrival by the existing Boglansh groups explicitly to provide heterogeneity and a link to quartiers of other villages. The Katshopari quartier consists of one masculine indigenous family and two feminine families of mixed origin. Thus masculine or feminine assignment indicates some sense of ethnic "purity" and sequence of arrival, but not consistently. In the central Bulunits village of Monchon, Denise PauIme discovered, the two moieties, which are rather neatly divided by the surnames Camara (masculine) and Bangoura (feminine), trace their origins differently (1956:105-6). The Camara oral traditions refer to the migration from the Fouta Djallon, while the Bangoura traditions refer not to migration but, rather, to the Bangoura as the prior coastal inhabitants (a significant variation upon which Paulme did not elaborate). Here the male masquerade of the Camara is ritually opposed to the female masquerade of the Bangoura. This alignment of masculine with the mountains of the interior, and feminine with the coast, parallels a Sitemu structure in which the male and female

Migration Groups of the Baga Sitemu and Their Destinations

Kaklentsh Katako 1st















A BOL ta-Bol


A a-Bunu


Key (SOMTUP) (a-Bunu) (Katalco) (Kawass)




name of patron spirit name of migration group (tribe) name of principal village settled name of later village settled





33 Kabaki



38 39

36,3 Kakontsra







• •

• A


to Tabonke


otsho II)


Mosque = Church Quartier KAGBENENE Daklatsho = Clan (Tamouya) = Family



A (Conakridi)

100 meters

= Main avenue (motorable) = Footpath A = Remains of many former habitations Section constructed since Independence = Section vacated since Independence Quartier boundaries House in Kabgenene Quartier = House in Kamala Quartier House in Katshopan Quartier

0 15. House of the Chief of Tolkotsh who reigned just before Independence, the late Claudien Bangoura (house belongs to Bassali family, though situated in the area of Torossya family).

29. Depression where mud was taken to build houses.

1. House of former President of District (Chief of Tolkotsh), El Hadji Boubacar Massi Bangoura, died 1988. 2. Kumbukum -location of former sacred forest of a-Mantsho-ria-Tsemp for Kagbthene quartier.

16. Former location of the 1st a-fan of Tolkotsh.

32. Former location of the a-fan of the Kakontsra clan.

17. House of the head of ritual of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon, Seni Sama Bangoura.

33. Kategbat-Port on the inlet leading to Kamsar.

3. Former sacred forest of a-Bol.

18. Santo-former location of the dance of ka-Bere-Tshol (now the Permanence building).

35. Former sacred forest of Kosso (a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol of Katshopan quartier).

19. Former location of the Catholic Church before Independence (now the Permanence building).

36. House of the head of ritual of a-Bol, Maliki Gbefemuna Camara.

6. Karikbi-inlet where dance of a-Bol formerly took place.

20. Current ka-ki-ka-pein of Tolkotsh.

37. Former dance plaza of the D'mba of the Katshopan quartier.

7. Former sacred forest used for general ritual.

21. Burial place of the original stone brought at the founding of Tolkotsh.

TOLKOTSH: Key to Numbered Sites

4. Former viewing ground for elders to watch the dance of a-Bol. S. Former viewing ground (knoll) for non-elders to watch the dance of a-Bol.

8. Former sacred forest of the D'mba of the Kagbaene quartier. 9. Blacksmith's shop.

22. House of the current President of District, Jean-Marie Camara.

10. House of the last man responsible for holding the tether of a-Mantsho-iio-Pon.

23. Former location of the dance of a-Mantsho-fro-Pon1st stop-and sacred grove of elders before proceeding to the sacred grove of a-Mantsho-fro-Pon.

11. Former location of the 2nd a-fan of Tolkotsh.

24. Football field.

12. Former location of the 2nd kii-ki-kii-pern of Tolkotsh.

25. Primary school.

13. Former location of the principal dance of a-Mantsho-iio-Pon and meeting place of the elders (now the site of the central mosque).

26. Dispensary.

14. Former location of the 3rd kä-lo-kä-pon of Tolkotsh.

28. Former sacred forest of Mama Otsafan for Tankrori clan.

27. Former sacred forest of a-Mantsho-no-Pon.



30. Former secondary sacred forest of a-Mantsho-no-Pon. 31. Former location of the a-fan of the Kabesan clan.

34. Only remaining oval house in Tolkotsh, built 1937.

38. Former sacred forest of the D'mba of the Katshopan quartier. 39. Former sacred forest of the Katshopan quartier. 40. Nabakara-site of the first landing at Tolkotsh by the founding ancestors, and first settlement.

Tolkotsh Village: Structure of Families Quartier

Clan kor


(in order



Attached Families

Families kor


of rank)


Katshotsho II



Wakariya Dafan6


Torossya9 & its satellites: Kateptshenk & Conakridi Bassali 8c Taboria










Tamouya Pintankla Katshotsho














Key • • 1 2 3

4 5 6 7 8 9

Bangoura surname Camara surname Keita surname

9 cP

a-Bol moiety a-Mantsho-iio-Pon moiety

clan of first ancestral son, Tshotsho clan of second ancestral son, Toiio; final destination of all masked dance clan of third ancestral son, Sama; the first-arriving clan; clan in charge of firstfruits ritual; site of the first sacred house; site of burial of the founding stone; site where all masked dance begins clans that have absorbed Nalu captives, thus 9 captive family assigned to d moiety within 9guarder clan whose chief elder is head of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon ritual clan whose chief elder is head of a-Bol ritual family whose ancestor discovered a-Bol family in charge of the wells

masquerades (though not the people) are traced respectively to the mountains and to the coast. Paulme learned of the role of the serpent spirit in regulating the relationship between Monchon's male moiety (Camara) and female moiety (Bangoura, with a third surname, Souma, added in): serpent dancers would appear in a dance of mock combat, representing the village's lineages and symbolizing their complementary opposition through their respective alignments with either the masculine or the feminine principle (1956:106-10). I too was told about these two spirits in Monchon; the male serpent was Ma-Tsholo Kombo, and the female serpent was Ma-Tsholo Sangara. The title "Ma-Tsholo"(Paulme records it as "Mosolo") derives from the Baga word a-Tshol, "medicine," an etymology that ties the word to the Baga Sitemu name for the same serpent spirit, a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol. In the Buluriits tradition, Ma-Tsholo Kombo and Ma-Tsholo Sangara would struggle for superiority, attempting to "steal the children" of the opposite moiety during initiation. Among the Sitemu, on the other hand, as Sekou Beka Bangoura writes, "There is no spectacular battle between the masculine and the feminine principles, each projecting a part of the community" (1972:58).

45.(opposite page) Plan of the village of Tolkotsh, Baga Sitemu. Before the 1950s, each village was saturated with sacred sites. Plan by Frederick Lamp, 1992; graphic design by Victoria Kaak.



Paulme also learned that the division into moieties holds among the Baga Kalum (1956:108-9; this finding has yet to be investigated in depth). The village of Kaporo, for example, is divided into the moieties of Upper Kaporo and Lower Kaporo. Here as in the rest of da-Baka, exogamy holds on the level of the moiety, with marriage uniting the two halves. Whether the Kalum assign the moieties a gender is unclear; we do know, however, that they consider the serpent spirit a-Mantsho-iiaTshol (which they call am-Bantsho) to be bigendered. A-Mantsho-iia-Tshol is for them the supreme spirit. It was controlled in the past by ritual leaders, who gained their status through an initiation conducted by elder ritual practitioners, when the ritual was extant. Social and kinship structure among the Baga has been explored to some extent by Paulme (1956), working among the Buluriits at Monchon and to a much lesser extent among the Sitemu at Katako. It is a complicated structure, and varies from village to village; to examine each of its variations is beyond our scope here, but its effect on social and ritual life can be briefly described. The Baga Sitemu village of Tolkotsh will give an idea of it (see box, and also the map in fig. 45).

46. Tabonke beach, Tolkotsh Village, Baga Sitemu. This is where a-Bol, the supreme female spirit, was

The unique dialectic between the masculine and the feminine is especially critical among the Baga Sitemu and the Pukur, and merits some special consideration here, as well as a brief caveat. On the subject of a-Mantsho-no-Pon, as explained in the previous chapter, I have decided to say nothing beyond what can be found in already available sources (except for a brief reference later in regard to the male initiation into adulthood). I believe this is as the elders would wish. Although A-Mantsho-rioPon is the most important spirit and masquerade among the Baga Sitemu, the headdress is not represented in the exhibition that this book accompanies. On the subject of his female counterpart, â&#x20AC;&#x201D; a-Bol, I will again restrict commentary to an introductory framework and to the public manifestation that anyone may see. My principal objective is to describe the ritual function of the masculine and feminine moieties, which underlies the whole of Baga cultural tradition.

discovered. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

A-Bol and the Marriage of Source and Destination A-Mantsho-rio-Pon, the spirit of the masculine moiety, resides in the ancient Baga traditional homelands in the Fouta Djallon, but he is considered the husband of a spirit of the sea whom the Baga only discovered on their arrival at the coast. This spirit is a-Bol, the patron of the feminine moiety. She has been only briefly described in the literature (Paulme 1956:110-12), but her name appears as early as 1615 in an intriguing, if ambiguous, account of "Abol, who is their devil" (Alvares 1990:folio 139). Like a-Mantsho-rio-Pon, she is also known by other, more familiar names: "Grandmother"(Mama) and "The Old Woman"(wu-Thembra). A-Bol is said to have been "discovered" in the region of Tolkotsh village by a woman called Tshaparfi, of the ka-Tom clan (Kagbenene quartier), who was married to a man from the Kakontsra clan (Katshopan quartier). The discovery occurred at a stream leading to the beach at the village of Tolkotsh, in an area called Tabrinke:


A mother, Tshaparfi, went to fish with her daughter at Tabonke, and saw a spirit left by the tide. Mother wanted to seize it, but the daughter, Tshapanbaii, called her brother, Sarabol ["He who bears a-Boll, to come help to seize it, in order for it to remain in the family. If the mother took it, she would give it to her own family [where her ties of inheritance lay], and not to the family of her husband (middle-aged man, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1987). A song sung by the dancers of a-Bol dramatizes the discovery by Tshapanhail and Sara bol: Sarabol, I implore you. Sarabol, in kor nam-o I implore you from Tabonke. in keit- nam tabonke krori I'm calling you because I've seen a-Bol. in kor nam-o in ?lank a-Bol I've discovered a-Bol in Tabonke. i fir a-Bol tabonke kroii I'm calling you because a-Bol is yours. e-in kor nam-o a-Bol iiam I've discovered a-Bol in Tabonke. i fir a-Bol tabonke kron Tshaparfi, Tshapanbari; Tshaparfi, Tshapanbari; etc. Tshapanbaii, Where did you see a-Bol? Tshapanhafi, Where did you see a-Bol? I saw a-Bol at Tabonke. Oh, your a-Bol!

Tshapiinbaii-o de ma flank a-Bol-o Tshapanbaii-o de ma nテ、テアk a-Bol-o in naiik a-Bol de tabonke krori o-a-Bol nam-o

The mother, however, called her own brothers, from the ka-Tom clan, to come take possession of the spirit. Accordingly, responsibility for the spirit was assumed by both the ka-Tom and the Kakontsra clans. As the ka-Tom clan was of lower status, however, with alien ties, ultimate responsibility was invested in the clan elder of Kakontsra. The names of the mother and her daughter give an important clue to the social construction of this epic. In the previous chapter we touched on the significance of the dialectic between elder and younger: the elder (as in the elder brother) has inherent rights, but the younger is associated with initiative, is likely to assume those rights, and is ultimately expected to take preeminence. In a discussion of the customs of birth among the Baga Sitemu, the Cultural Commission of "The Baga Youth" has supplied a critical datum: It is important to note that the third-born female would be the most celebrated, and would be the object of general preeminence, indicated by the names: Tshap Tshapi Tshapl

Tshai Tshaitshai Tshapronke

Tshaptshin Tshapiata Tshaptshimo

Tshaparfi Tshapieke etc.

Both the mother and the daughter in this story, then, are third-born, as we know from the root of their names: Tshap. This is central to understanding the true nature of a-Bol, and of the clan guardians of the a-Bol ritual. By no means can we assume that lower status, or feminine status, means lesser power, any more than we can assume that the first-born, or the first to arrive, takes the rights of preeminence. A-Bol appeared in secret ritual as a huge fiber-covered construction that has been variously described as resembling an elephant, a carapace, and a house. The basic form was a construction of palm branches and covered over with raffia. In regard to [a-Mantsho-fio-Pon's] feminine counterpart, a-Bol, this divinity, having been invisible, takes the form of an enormous carapace like that of the giant sea turtle, supported by a dozen men hidden beneath the fiber (Sekou Beka Bangoura). At the front of a-Bol's costume, there would be a wooden carving of a turtle shell窶馬ot a real turtle's shell, because it had to be too big (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1987). CHAPTER IV 窶「 MASCULINE AND FEMININE CLANS



47. Dance for a-Bol, Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990.

A-Bol was in the shape of a house made of reeds, with a bird sitting on top (middle-aged man, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1986). The costume of a-Bol could be as big as a house (elder, Muslim, Katagba, Sitemu, 1987). A-Bol took the shape of a Quonset hut. There was an opening at the rear (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1987). A-Bol had two tusks and a trunk (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). It is a great frame covered over with old leaves....There is something at the front that recalls tusks and the trunk [of an elephant](Pere de Milleville, French Catholic missionary to Katako in the early 1950s, personal communication, 1988). At the sides of the half-cylindrical form were reeds that could be swung to and fro like arms,so that the sides could reach out and touch (elder, Christian, Conakry, Kaklentsh, Sitemu, 1987).



Contemporary Baga seem confused about a-Bol's appearance, even when they are elders who were able to see her in their youth and middle age. But it is as important to present that confusion as it is to give an exact description of her. Clearly, nearly everyone who saw her came away with a different perception. Her image was enigmatic; this was its mystique. Before the masquerade of a-Bol, which we shall examine below, Baga men performed a spectacular and sensuous dance that emphasizes the importance of her moiety's devotion to the feminine principle. We observed this dance in several villages in 1987. From a forest path, the men enter the village in single file. On reaching the village square, they form a semicircle, led by the clan elder in charge of the ritual of a-Bol. All men, including those of the a-Mantsho-fio-Pon moiety, are invited to participate. Each dancer is dressed in a particular female style: a printed-cloth wrapper around the waist, a scarf around the head, necklaces, bracelets, and conspicuous earrings tied to the ears. Around the chest, a large scarf hangs from the man's neck, its four corners pulled around and tied together behind the lower back. Only the leading clan elder of the a-Bol moiety remains dressed as a man. Accompanying the dancers are men playing te-ndif drums. Each dancer carries a switch (variously a sheaf of leaves, a scarf, or a fiber whisk) in his left hand, and in the right a sistrum, the wa-sakumba, which he shakes on each fourth beat of a four-beat measure, alternately shaking it on each beat. Both the te-ndef and the wa-sakumba are normally reserved for women's use. In single file, the dancers move counterclockwise, turn in toward the drummers, then turn outward and continue circling, sometimes briefly reversing direction. When this dance was performed at a three-day ritual sacrifice held in the sacred forest at Kaklentsh in February 1987, women were present, and participated in the songs and in general dancing, but did not join the semicircle of male cross-dressers. This corresponds to, but qualifies, Paulme's description of what she found in 1954: Several evenings per week, the instruments can be heard in the neighboring forest; at this signal, women,strangers, and children close themselves inside, extinguishing every light. By twos and threes, the men repair to the forest to come out again in single file, having changed into women's clothing.... The doors do not open, normal life does not return, until the village is again free of the "women": a-pis abul, "they dance abul [a-Bol]," it is said, to designate this strange behavior which prohibits all other dance, music, or amusement as long as it is in effect (1956:110). In the dances we saw in 1987, the men's movements were homoerotic. First parading at a normal gait, the dancers would then take a position with legs splayed and knees bent, shuffling their feet with each beat, swiveling the hips, and flipping their switches in the left hand. Paulme observed the same in the mid-century: Several times they came out during the day.... these men with solid muscles, their shape unmistakable, often though verbally contemptuous of the [women] ... nevertheless strive hard to evoke their silhouette in undulating the rump and the shoulders, a kerchief or a sack draped from the hand (1957:110). Demonstrations of this dance in several Sitemu villages were relatively sedate, but at the three-day ritual sacrifice the dancing was boisterous, continued for several hours, and included some spirit possession and also some sexually suggestive gestures and contact between the men. Why do the men dress as women, behave sexually toward each other, and revile real women? Consultants were either unwilling or unable to discuss the question. The most obvious answer would be that the men in this ritual are expressing the inferior status of the a-Bol moiety, as men have superior status over women. But the latter premise is perhaps not clearly held by the Baga; in some ways women are



49 (opposite). Headdress in the form of a serpent (a-Mantsho-lia-Tshol). Baga/NalufLanduma/Pukur/ Buluiiits, early twentieth century. Wood (Vitex madiensis), polychrome. H. 144.8 cm. Collection Florence and Donald Morris, Huntington Woods, Michigan.

regarded as superior, and the issue is extremely complicated. A-Bol, the spirit, is female, and the dancers may simply be expressing a solidarity with her. Or the dancers may be invoking symbols of feminine powers such as the productivity of earth and waters, but one would wonder why real women could not perform this invocation as well, as indeed they do in other ritual. The reasons for this convention of cross-dressing may be multiple. I would like to suggest another possibility drawn from clues in Baga sexual and social traditions. We have seen that the Baga share a construction of "elder brother/younger brother" that is well-known in the Mande world (though linguistically not Mande, the Baga nevertheless participate in many ways in Mande culture): the younger is seen as a usurper, and also as lesser in rank. The clans of the a-Bol moiety are the "younger" or more recently arrived group, and they are not fully initiated into the secrets of the male moiety of a-Mantsho-no-Pon. Throughout this larger culture, children are attributed female status in some ways until they receive initiation. Thus the group identified as younger, with the status of an uninitiated child, would dress to symbolize this. "The younger" may furthermore have implications of sexual conduct. Homosexual behavior among young unmarried men is described as normal: "That's what we all did when we were in school," a now middle-aged man told me. Now, it would also be a factor that, according to elder consultants, single men used to be forbidden from sexual contact with women before their initiation into adulthood, when they were authorized to marry. In times past, these elders say, when the initiation might be postponed by some crisis or other, men were often forced to remain single even into their mid-thirties. No studies have investigated the extent of this phenomenon, but it seems clear that some homosexual behavior was expected among the youth. Thus the a-Bol ritual may be seen in the context of a "younger" clan identified with the feminine principle, and sexual as sexuality is defined for the "younger." The map of Tolkotsh (fig. 45) indicates the spatial configuration taken up by the feminine moiety, and shows that the sites of the a-Bol ritual are all within that moiety's space. (All the houses of the masculine moiety now located in the feminine moiety's space have been built since independence—i.e., since the destruction of the Baga ritual system following Islamization.) A-Bol's sacred grove was set at the bank of a marigot (a long, winding inlet from the sea), about a hundred meters from what was then the edge of town. Her dance arena was actually a shallow pool (now filled in and cultivated as a rice field) leading to the marigot. The elders' viewing ground for the dance was on an embankment across the path from the pool; others had to watch from farther off, at the top of a knoll some eighty meters away. And while a-Bol's ritual sites were set in the swamp lowlands toward the sea, a-Mantsho-fioPon's sites lay on a higher, forested plateau. These locations, then, created a sort of microcosm, within the village, of the Baga primordial and present world, consisting of the highlands of the Fouta and the lowlands of the coast. A subtext in discussions of the three highest and most formidable of the Baga spirits is their role in the defense of Baga independence:

48. "Bansonyi, fetish of a male secret society." By a Catholic missionary of the Peres de Saint-Esprit, probably Pere Feuillet, before 1930. Bansonyi, or a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol (as the Baga Sitemu call him),

A-Bol was very attractive, very beautiful, so majestic that one fled out of fear. . .. All the Susu acknowledged it. It was not an ordinary thing. ... It was grand. A-Bol was so magnificent that to approach it, one had to be initiated into all the sacred things. ... A-Bol could sail up the marigot from Kassan at low tide in a flash (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992).

was the supreme male spirit of the clan among the northern and southern subgroups, and a secondary clan spirit among the Sitemu. Watercolor. Courtesy the Pontificio Muse° Missionario Ethnologic°, Vatican City.


A-Mantsho-iia-Tshol/Inap: The Power of River Sources There were two of these [spirits] together. We used it to frighten outsiders. One was more powerful than the other. We had it here.... It is a very old tradition. [Our ancestors] used this to discover new lands. It came from the Fouta. It protected them during war. It was used to frighten antagonists (elder, Muslim, Pokhon, Kakissa, 1987).

Among the Baga Mandori, Kakissa, Koba, and Kalum, and also among the Bulufiits, the Landuma, and the Nalu, the serpent spirit a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol, or Imp,reigned supreme. He was also important to the Sitemu and the Pukur, but for them his ritual rank fell below that of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon, the towering bird. Still, among all the Baga and their cultural relatives, the Serpent was greatly feared. The Sitemu use the name a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol. If we are correct in our interpretation of the term "Mantsho" (as in a-Mantsho-fio-Pon), the name "a-Mantsho-fiaTshol" would translate as "The master of medicine." The name a(m)-Bantsho is a deformation of the same name, used by the Mandori, Kakissa, Kalum,Pukur, and Nalu. In the West, this carving is usually known as "Bansonyi," a term introduced by the Susu; that name, often also rendered as "Mansonyi," is a further deformation of the Sitemu name, to which has been added the common Susu noun ending yi. It contributes nothing, then, to our understanding of the nature of the serpent spirit. Among the southern Baga, the name "map" is most widely used. Other names for the Serpent spirit include: "a-Mantsho of the Adults" "the Mantsho of the Sacred Dance" "the Old Man" "the Mantsho of Medicine" "the True a-Mantsho" [?] "Medicine"

a-Mantsho-fia-Tshemp a-Mantsho-Tshapr

Sitemu Sitemu

ta-Tern Koba Pukur a-Mantsho-fiach Pukur a-Bantsho-fio-Fii Bulufiits ma-Tsholo (deformation of the Sitemu a-tshol)

Names of obscure meaning include: Sitemu Kora (probably derived from Kora, in Koba, meaning "God") Dagbet-da-ki-Yak Landuma 50. Painting of a serpent on an exterior wall of the residence of Seni Koumbassa, Landuma, near Kamsar. The serpent probably represents Ninkinanka, the spiritual being who is the source of the masquerade of a-Mantsho-na-Tshol. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.


The earliest Western reference by name to a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol seems to be that of Andre Arcin, although it is not clear that he is referring (at least knowingly) to the serpent: Bansondyi has his principal seat among the Baga, Bagafore [Bulufiits], and

Landuma (Toumbeta is the great meeting place)....The Bansognyi of the Bagafore ... passes through the village at night, kills the sorcerers, etc., he has the gift of double sight, and keeps watch to see that nothing abnormal is happening in the houses as he brushes by. ... Bansognyi, the idol which represents the masculine principle (1907:458, 463). The spirit was manifested in the form of a tall, colorful wooden serpent figure that could be up to 2.6 meters in height. The wooden figure would be set vertically on top of a costume constructed of a conical framework of palm branches placed over a male dancer's head, which, in turn, was covered with a palm-fiber costume that fell to the ground. Over the upper part of the costume, below the wooden serpent figure, were wrapped large cloths, usually brilliantly colored, even garishâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;by the 1950s the fabrics were often synthetic and interwoven with metal threads. Feathers and cloth streamers were attached to the top of the serpent's head, and flew in the breeze as the dancer moved. Source of the Imagery Beatrice Appia (1943b:33-41) and Monique de Lestrange (1950) conducted two broad surveys on the subject of the serpent spirit Ninkinanka, traveling throughout the Casamance (Senegal), the Guinea coast, the Fouta Djallon, northern Guinea, and farther inland. Their studies detail the conception among widespread groups: the Manding in Senegal and Haute Guinee, the Coniagui, the various Baga groups, the Susu and Landuma of Basse Guinee, and the Fulbe of the Fouta Djallon (see also Lamp 1982: 195-96). Ninkinanka (the name has many variants) is widely honored as the spirit who gives rain, bestows riches, and brings children to the infertile. He exacts a hefty price from those who profit from his aid. Ninkinanka appears in the form of a serpent resembling the boa constrictor, which is found abundantly in the swamps. His appearance, however, is extraordinary: larger than the boa, brightly colored, with gold covering the head. As a youngster he is said to live in a large tree in the forest, as an adult he is said to live in the water. Ninkinanka is the rainbow. "After having drunk the water of the sky, he descends again and buries himself in the earth: the water that he has drunk comes out again at the river sources" (Appia 1943b:41). That the accounts compiled by Appia and Lestrange on the Baga are recited with almost identical details today by nonliterate Sitemu and Kakissa elders indicates its broad and enduring dissemination in oral tradition throughout the coast of Guinea. These authors are not normal reading in Guinean schools, although some university students writing theses have had access to their articles; but it is difficult to believe that the elder consultants I interviewed had ever had even brief contact with those few students. Appia herself found the tradition to be widespread up and down the coast of Guinea and also inland during her visit in 1938, and it would be surprising if it had not survived widely until today as an oral tradition. Ninkinanka...is a serpent with shiny scales, but can appear in many forms. If you find its scales on the road, you can keep them in a box, and you'll get rich. The Baga believe that it is an old duck that has become a serpent. It can change into a stone, and you'll see the stone moving along a road. It can change into a spitting cobra (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1987). I saw Ninkinanka once at Kasakal guarder at the village of Tshalbonto. I had gone walking about at Kasakal as far as the foot of a great cotton tree, where I discovered him. Glancing between the enormous root buttresses of this cotton CHAPTER IV â&#x20AC;˘ MASCULINE AND FEMININE CLANS



51. Ritual combat between the Serpent masqueraders of the two moieties at Monchon, Buliniits. Drawing made for Denise Paulme by her consultant Moussa Bangoura, a Bulufiits youth from Monchon Village. Courtesy Denise Paulme.

52a-b (opposite). Headdress in the form of a serpent (a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol). Baga/Nalu/Landuma/Pukur/ Bulufiits, early twentieth century. The Serpent headdress was immense and must have been held vertically on top of the head by extraordinary balance. Wood (Cordia africana), polychrome, iron. H. 220 cm. Museum Rietberg, Zurich (RAf 8). Acquired 1961.

tree, I saw the Ninkinanka, which did not resemble a human being. From the head to the tail, he was adorned with a crest. His face resembled something of a human being. He had, from the two sides of his face to the tail, three colors: red, white, and black. ... He was there, and we were transfixed. It was a beautiful being with a human face, and beautiful eyes. I wanted to take it and carry it to Kawass, but how to carry it? I didn't know how to row a canoe. I said to him,"You—if it were not for the sea, I would take you with me to my place, but, unfortunately, I don't know how to row, and if I ask someone else to take me over, he will refuse." I drew away from the cotton tree. A few days later, I went again to confirm that he was still there, but, alas, he had departed elsewhere ... To construct the a-Mantsho-iia-Tshol, or -fia-Tshemp, it was necessary to capture the spirit called Ninkinanka. It was at the site where one captured Ninkinanka that one constructed the a-Mantsho-ria-Tshemp. It is this Ninkinanka who becomes your a-Mantsho, capable of detecting certain hidden matters. Ninkinanka lives on the earth as we do, but he lives apart. He can be found under a great tree. This is not something ordinary. Ninkinanka can kill spiritual beings. ... It is a serpent—it is the boa constrictor who lays the Ninkinanka. When the boa constrictor lays eggs in a circle, the egg in the middle of the circle is the Ninkinanka. If, by chance, you are lucky enough to encounter all these eggs hatched except the one in the middle, you must take it and place it in your trunk. This egg will hatch and become the Ninkinanka.





You will become very rich. Its food is dry white bread-crumbs and water. The trunk should not be locked with a key, but just closed. The day that you hear noise in the trunk, you know that it has departed and will return after four days, bringing you a lot of money....It is very rare to encounter the boa constrictor in the act of laying its eggs. My ancestors and my grandparents enriched themselves by this rare opportunity. It doesn't exist anymoreâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it was in the time of our ancestors, and also in my own time, that one could happen upon this opportunity.... A-Mantsho was the Ninkinanka incarnated (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). In all the testimony we received in our inquiries over several years, across all ethnic and subgroup lines, the consultants stopped short of equating a-Mantshofia-Tshol directly with Ninkinanka. A-Mantsho-fia-Tshol incarnates Ninkinanka, is carved after Ninkinanka, resembles Ninkinanka; no one would say that a-Mantshofia-Tshol is Ninkinanka. The distinction is important, because it is consistent with Baga conceptions of the masquerade. In neighboring cultures, for example that of the closely related Temne, the manifestation is the spiritual being and, to some extent, the spiritual being is the manifestation, and does not exist independently of it. The Baga, on the other hand, believe that they create their own spiritual beings. The power of Ninkinanka is not that of a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol. A-Mantsho-fia-Tshol, in its creation by the Baga, appropriates the power of Ninkinanka, but its powers are even more diverse. To say that a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol is Ninkinanka, or that it is the boa constrictor, would be to deny the Baga conception of their own creative work. A-Mantsho-fia-Tshol is, simply, a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol. The Events A-Mantsho-fia-Tshol appeared in the competition between clans. The greater the clan, the more famous. The lesser clan was assumed to be associated with sorcery. It could be danced at any time. It was brought out to enliven the town. It was worn by a strong young man. There were three in Katako, for Kamshomble, Kagbinifi, and Kasinki quartiers: the first was for the Bangoura and Camara, the second for the Keita (of the ka-Tom lineage),... and the third for the Bangoura. A-Mantsho danced on separate days. It was the women who evaluated the dancers. The whole village would gather close to a-Mantsho so his feet couldn't be seen. Different young men would alternate in dancing it to show different styles. A-Mantsho, or Kora, had personal names: the first was Ndunku,the second was Mas6nka, and the third was Tambamane,corresponding to the three quartiers. Each would dance all over the village. When they were finished, each person would have his own opinion as to which was the best. There was no general consensus (elder, Muslim, Katako, Sitemu, 1986). There were three in Tolkotsh, one for each quartier: Napoleon, at Kamala; Febre (named after a Catholic priest), at Katshopan; and "Minister of War," at Kagbenene. It is a very ancient tradition. In the beginning, all songs were in Saga, but later, they began to sing only in Susu (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1987). There were two of a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol at Kawass: one for Dakamamboi and one for a-Bafika-Disre [Kawass has only two quartiers]. Each quartier had its own a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol.... Each guarder would dance on the day that it found convenient. The two never danced the same day, at the same spot, because to dance at the same time would surely result in a brawl (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992).


53. Serpent masquerade, Temne, Sierra Leone. The Serpent headdress is known from the Temne in the south to the Nalu in the north, but this may be the only existing photograph of authentic ritual use.


Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1976.

54a-b. Headdress in the form of a serpent (a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol). BagaiNalu/Landuma/Pukur/ Bulunits, early twentieth century. Serpent headdresses are known as tall as 260 cm. or as short as 90 cm. Wood, polychrome. H. c. 90 cm. Collection Herbert and Paula Molner, Chicago.



I know that they never appeared at the same time. For example, at Tolkotsh, Katshopan quartier would dance its a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol for four months, even for a year, before another quartier would dance theirs (middle-aged man, Christian, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). Among the Kakissa, the Serpent map was paired, as the dominant male, with a female spiritual manifestation not in a serpent form but a very different form perhaps deriving, ironically, from the greater male spirit, the monumental a-Mantsho-rio-Pon of the Sitemu and Pukur today. The missionary Jean-Baptiste Raimbault described a form very much on the scale of the Sitemu a-Mantsho-rio-Pon in the Baga Kakissa area in 1885, but that manifestation does not seem to be remembered today. A similar, smaller form, however, is recalled: a spirit called Yenkes, considered female, and the mate of the serpent masquerader map. Yenkes was the herald of map, and thus was subservient, in contrast to the spirit that seems to have been its model, the almighty a-Mantsho-no-Pon: Yenkes would come out before map [the serpent spirit] to announce his coming.... They performed when something of serious concern happened in the village. ... Yenkes was released to catch sorcerers. She tied them up and kept them for map to come and finish the job. Yenkes was quicker than map. She carried a toothed painted piece of wood to walk with. She was smaller than map. She looked like [Pantshaman, of M'born — fig. 42] but there was only one man inside. The head was a bird with horns.... Women were not allowed to see either Yenkes or map. If an uninitiated boy happened to see either, he would be circumcised the same day (elder, Muslim, Siranka, Kakissa, 1987). A-Mantsho-ria-Tshol appeared at the end of the first level of Baga Sitemu initiation for young girls and boys, showing himself to the elders and also to the initiates who had achieved only that stage. He also appeared among other groups—at the beginning of the initiation of young men into adulthood, for example, just before the act of circumcision. His appearance at initiations was consistent with the serpent's association with the rainbow, for rainbows were considered the sources of rivers and the endings of rains, and therefore were connected with beginnings and conclusions, life and death, and the perpetuation of lineages (Appia 1943a:161, Paulme 1958:412). Among the Baga Mandori, the initiation proceeding was described as follows: The initiates were circumcised and then initiated the same day to a-Bantsho [a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol] in the da-fande [the sacred initiation grove; a-fan in Sitemu]. This was the kä-bere a-Bantsho. Then a-Bantsho stayed with them through the entire four years [of initiation]. It could also come into the village during the night or the day, but women and children were not allowed to see it. It appeared in the village if the elders suspected something suspicious going on in the village (elder, Muslim, Dobali, Mandori, 1987). Among the Baga Koba and Kalum, the initiation to Inap/am-Bantsho was less a community affair, more a personal induction into a select ritual group: map belonged to one person.... The young men would come and pay for the privilege of meeting it, to become initiated to it. Inside an enclosure there was a division with a fence down the middle. On the other side was map. The young men would be told to go and "hold the old man's beard." ... Ours was covered with red taffeta, and it had a beard attached at the top (elder, Muslim, Kotaya, Koba, 1987). My father's sacred headdress was called "Kiringbi." There was a medicine that detected lies—the liar would become stuck to his chair. My father had two 82 CHAPTER IV • MASCULINE AND FEMININE CLANS


55. Dance of the Serpent, Buluiiits, Monchon Village. In this reenactment, the bearer of the Serpent carried it in his hands. Photo (from video): Frederick Lamp, 1987.

am-Bantshos: Kiringbi, the male, and Boya, the female. Each person would go to a private individual like my father to be initiated personally by him (elder woman, Muslim, Kobaya, Kalum, 1987). The Performance Apparently no outsider has ever photographed an authentic dance of the a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol headdress; all existing published photos were staged. Probably the only photograph of a serpent headdress of this type being used in ritual is one I took myself among the Temne in 1976, at the coronation of a subchief in Koya Chiefdom, Sierra Leone (fig. 53). The ritual was saturated with secrecy and I was very unwelcome, even though the part of it I saw was ostensibly public (it was held along a public road), and I had official permission to attend. When the serpent headdress appeared, I was whisked away as soon as I had snapped one photograph, from perhaps thirty meters distant, so that I could get no more than a brief glimpse of the formâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;incomprehensible to me at the time. My photograph, which I saw only on my return to the United States, shows an upright serpent with a tuft attached at the head, fitted atop a costume of fiber and bright silver-and-red cloth, which, I remember, was a metallic fabric. The masquerader did not dance, but rushed to and fro, followed by a boisterous crowd of men, and quickly disappeared from the central viewing area. The atmosphere was extremely tense, and dangerous to the uninitiated. Exactly how the immense serpent headdress was secured to the dancer's head, whether among the Baga or the Temne, is unclear. Examples in collections yield less evidence of ritual use than one would expect from a headdress or mask. Sometimes but not always there are nail holes or grooves in the base, indicating some way of securing the headdress to an armature. But it is hard to explain how such a tall vertical column could be secured by simply tying or even nailing the small basal support to anything. The evidence suggests that the main support for these headdresses was a cylindrical receptacle in the top of a conical armature worn on the dancer's head. This and some kind of reinforcement, such as nailing, pegging, or wrapping with cloths and twine at the base of the column, would have aided the skillful dancer; but rigorously careful balance would still have been the essential force against gravity. Even today, however, many heavy Baga headdresses are danced with CHAPTER IV â&#x20AC;˘ MASCULINE AND FEMININE CLANS



minimal attachment or none at all, some being simply set into a holder on top of the armature and balanced. Jacqueline Delange received a secondhand report from Bodiel Thiam, then Director of the Musee de Dakar: "The [headdress] had a special support surmounted by a socket into which the serpent could be placed in order to permit the manipulator to hold it solidly during his ritual acrobatics" (1962:7; see also Wheelock 1994:31-32).

The wearing of the headdress was described to us by a consultant over one hundred years old: It was a cotton tree that was carved, and at the bottom, a support was prepared to enable one to carry it. ... I bore it in dance—I was able to bear it very well. ... It was heavy and long. To put it up required four people, two on each side, in order to load it on. Once you could sense that it was in, and comfortable, you would signal to the four people to release it. ... As soon as it was raised up, the person inside ... would tie a belt that was there around him in order to hold it in equilibrium. I carried it; in my quartier, I was the only one to carry it, because it was necessary to be physically strong, for it was heavy and extremely high. ... I bore it and I danced. It was not everyone who could bear it (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). In Tolkotsh in 1992, among the Baga Sitemu, we witnessed a little of the a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol movement sans costume: while photographs of the figure were passed among a group of men, an older man was inspired to move as if bearing the Serpent. He held his hands in front of his chest, and he would dip his torso by bending his knees, keeping the torso vertical, and would turn his body in different directions. During our visit to Monchon, we saw a performance of what was described as the dance of ma-Tsholo Kombo (the male a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol). First, a man came running across the village plaza, blowing loudly on an antelope-horn trumpet. He was followed by another man who addressed the assembly with a short but powerpacked speech, ending with a benediction, Loritha. To a four-beat measure, three men, dressed as women, floated across the plaza and back, tapping three beats to one silent beat on their iron gongs. Other instruments used were a large kettle drum and a small side-beaten drum. Among a crowd of male and female dancers, a number carried long vertical poles, some with palm branches suspended from the top. One particular man in a white gown, surrounded by this crowd, carried a pole about two meters high, to the top of which was attached a large white cloth (fig. 55). Exiting the crowd, this man held the pole vertically with both hands, moving it left and right, then slightly up and down, as he drifted across the plaza with quick small steps, rhythmically dipping up and down by bending the knees. The crowd of dancers circulated around the drummers while the man in white slipped in and out of the crush of people. Among the Baga Koba, apparently, the a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol costume was carried in a different way: It was not worn on the head—it was carried on the shoulder.... The carrier didn't wear any special costume. It danced only in the darkness; it didn't like light. ... If its voice was heard from afar, everyone hid (elder, Muslim, Basenge, Koba, 1987). 56. Headdress in the form of a serpent

Accounts of the spirit's appearance always feature awe, even dread, of its powers:

(a-Mantsho-iia-Tshol). Baga/Nalu/Landuma/Pukur/ Bulunits, early twentieth century. The Serpent masker would be introduced to the youths at initiation into adulthood. Wood, polychrome. H. 198 cm. Music des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris (63-2-38).

It had many voices. It could cry like a baby or roar like a lion (elder, Muslim, Kolaboui, Landuma, 1987). When it roared in the village, people feared for their lives. It had a lot of bells hanging around it. ... Before it appeared, around 5 P.M., people would blow a


bullhorn to announce its coming, and then it came out at night....It could breathe, that is, it could rise up and deflate (elder, Muslim, Kotaya, Koba, 1987). Am-Bantsho's sound was horrifying. Sometimes it was heard high up and sometimes on the ground.... Women were not allowed to see am-Bantsho, on pain of death (elder woman, Kobaya, Kalum, 1987). When it danced, Ninkinanka would come and wrap around the figure.... There was a structure under it, and there hid the Ninkinanka, which made it move. It could jump from here to Doupourou. Ninkinanka was a real serpent which was kept inside the structure [of the costume] and it came out the top of the structure when the structure was shaken, and the entire wooden figure would soar up (elder, Muslim, Siranka, Kakissa, 1987). In its devotion to a-Mantsho-fio-Pon, a-Bol, a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol, or Yenkes, each clan was able to distinguish itself from the other, and to align itself with an emblem of power. Each spiritual power was unique, of male or female gender, but peculiar in its specialized abilities, invincibly protecting the lineage against outside antagonism while still acknowledging rank within. The theme of the legitimacy of the power of precedence and the inevitability of the power of usurpation, or of the balance between natural right and contrived empowerment,saturates the oral narrative on the formation of clans. It is also, as we shall see, the dominant theme throughout the history of the Baga, in the formation of age groups and in the balance of power between the elders and the youth. The alignment of villages with dual versions of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon, and the alignment of clans with the masculine and feminine principles and their various spiritual patrons, seem to enable the Baga to create a complex web of interrelationships across a broad geographic area. The further alignment of the many age grades with still more versions of these male and female patron spirits enables the Baga to manipulate generational tension as they manipulate the tension between dialect groups, tribes, clans, and families.





The Tshol have a power that is worshipped. They incarnate a Spirit capable of detecting the malicious spells cast, and the crimes committed, by sorcerers against people. — Sekou Beka Bangoura

In the past, each Baga clan was led by one of its eldest men, for whom one of the most important functions was the protection of the clan. In this role he became the guardian of the clan regalia. The most revered of these objects was the shrine figure called a-Tshol. Through ritual conducted at the kä-lo-ka-pon, the sacred house, a-Tshol called upon unparalleled powers of transformation. For the Baga, the origins of this beaked head on a pedestal are lost in the vast wilderness of ancestral time, traceable only to "the ancestor of our ancestors." To say that "a-Tshol was discovered at Mecca. ... The most high a-Tshol is found today at Mecca" (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992) is to say that it dates to the very earliest recognition of God, in the sense that the now-Muslim Baga understand that concept. This sense of sacred origins, though convoluted through decades and centuries of the reconfiguration of Baga spiritual identity, is at the heart of the phenomenon called a-Tshol.

57. Clan elder with his two Tshol shrine figures in front of his ka-Iii-kä-pon. Baga Sitemu. In the shrine or ka-lo-ka-pon, an altar (an-gbip) might hold one or more Tshol, a Tonktingba headdress, horns, shells, bark, leaves, and other power-endowed objects. Note that both the elder and the Tshol are seated on stools. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

A-Tshol, the Agent of Transformation As a carved wooden figure, a-Tshol (plural: Tshol) consists of a head and a long, thin neck on a large socle. The head usually takes the form of an anthropomorphic face with braided coiffure and a long beak. There are two basic versions: one large, complex, and elongated, the other small and compact. There are also idiosyncratic examples ranging from the minimal and abstract to the detailed and naturalistic. The carving on the larger figures can be elaborate. The beak is usually pointed, but is sometimes rounded at the end like a pelican's. (Several Baga consultants identified the pelican as the bird represented by the figure.) Triangular and cross-hatch designs are incised along the beak's sides. On top of the beak, at its base, a human nose is carved as a modified cone or pyramid, and from the septum a raised line extends down along the beak's center. Brass tacks on the high forehead are often the only indication of eyes. A metal ring often pierces the nasal septum, and there are holes for metal earrings in the large ears, which are carved in an elongated C shape, and in each of four sagittal crests in the coiffure, which divide the head into equal quadrants. The cranium is often hollowed, and the coiffure pierced with openwork designs. At its crown, where the crests meet, there is often an ornament, variously carved to resemble a spade, a ball, or a serpent head (sometimes anthropomorphic). Some a-Tshol heads are studded all over with brass tacks. CHAPTER V • THE WELFARE OF THE CLAN COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


58. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/Rach/Elek). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth century. Many Tshol heads bear a finial in the form of a head of a human being or a serpent. Wood. H.53 cm. Tropen Museum, Amsterdam (3069-4). Acquired 1961.

59. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/Rach/Elek/Mbeleket). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits/Nalu, late nineteenth century. Small versions of the a-Tshol are numerous and usually bear holes around the base, indicating that they were danced. Wood, metal. H. 23.8cm.. The Field Museum, Chicago (221597).

The long thin neck, normally carved as one piece with the head, is usually angled in the middle to indicate the Adam's apple. The socle, into which the neck is inserted, is carved separately and may vary in shape between a sphere or a cylinder. If it is a cylinder, it may be solid or hollow. If hollow, it may be carved with elaborate pierced designs resembling what one Baga consultant called a stool. Intriguing configurations carved at the extreme tip of the elongated cranium give particularity to each figure. Some of these finials are simple knobs or pegs. Of the 110 large Tshol figures that I have studied, however, nine have finials that either directly or abstractly represent a miniature human or a-Tshol face; the finial of another figure resembles a complete human figure. On thirty more, the finial may be a more abstract rendering of a face: it is a knob, ranging from a sphere to a disc, with a ridge around its top that seems to represent coiffure, and it rests on a shaft or "neck" that is sometimes carved with an "Adam's apple," like the main figure's neck. Eleven figures have a flattened finial with a central ridge, resembling the face of the serpent figure a-Mantsho-na-Tshol. Smaller Tshol figures are simpler. Usually carved from a single piece of wood, the head is again anthropomorphic, with a plain solid coiffure and a single central crest. Lacking the larger heads' exaggerated extensions, it has a short pointed beak and almost never a finial at the crown. The neck, however, is carved with the Adam's apple. The socle is usually conical, and its concave base sometimes has small holes around it, indicating some sort of attachment. Most of the examples of these figures now in Western collections were acquired without attribution, although those in Portuguese collections, acquired in Guinea-Bissau, north of Baga territory, are


attributed to the Nalu. Their wide distribution in French collections suggests widespread use among the Baga as well. Judging from his notes, those acquired by the collector Henri Labouret probably came from the Bulunits, who also refer to them in their oral accounts. These small figures were likely used by the same groups that used the large ones, and it is possible that the two forms were considered female and male respectively. Some dual figures exist, one large and one small, always found in conjunction with the part of a wooden blacksmith's bellows used to join the two air pumps to the single exhaust tube; their necks are thrust into the dual intake-tubes of this part (fig. 61), which is ornamented, significantly, with the headdress of Tonkongba, companion to a-Tshol. Since Denise Paulme conducted her research among the Buluiiits in the 1950s, it has been known that Tshol figures functioned as shrine objects, and were used especially in the pursuit of conspirators with malevolent forces. Paulme's consultants described the figure to her, and a curiously idiosyncratic example appears in a sketch made for her by a young assistant, but she was never shown the object itself. Of all the Baga sculptural forms used in ritual, a-Tshol has probably been the most enigmatic, and the most shrouded in secrecy. Yet there have been examples of the figure in Western collections since the 1880s(Museum fiir Volkerkunde, Berlin, ex Clara Sand, 1883; Musee de l'Homme, Paris, 1883; British Museum, London, 1889). The earliest mention by name seems to be that of Landerset Simoes, in 1935: ... They most adore because of its special significance: for the dances and for the neophytes—the Macho!.... The Nalu people used to have periodic initiations. ... it was the Macho!, the divinity, who presided.... One should be cautioned that when its festival comes around, one who tries to penetrate it puts his life in danger, and this impedes a real description. ... They invented it, yes, they say, to kill, a barbarous custom, indeed. There the youths are initiated, after their bodies are anointed with palm oil in the presence of Macho! (1935:139-40). A travelogue by Fred Bowald illustrated an a-Tshol figure as early as 1939 (pp. 243 and 295), and described one as a "bird head with crocodile snout—visually frightful, formidable devil's face" (p. 119). Two more were illustrated and described in a brief notice by William Fagg in 1947, just a few years before Paulme conducted her exploratory fieldwork. Before the use of a-Tshol was outlawed on the arrival of national independence (the practice has reappeared in the 1980s), no photograph was ever taken of the figure in situ. "A-Tshol" is a Baga Sitemu and Mandori term generally translated as "medicine," signifying a whole range of substances with powers of healing or protection, including horns, shells, bark, and leaves (Paulme 1958:410). The a-Tshol shrine could hold a collection of these materials, the figure itself, or both. The idea of medicine must be understood in the context of African healing: any material that can effect a transformation, physical or spiritual, is a-tshol. Other groups' names for the figure also meaning "medicine" include the Bulunits "tlek" and the Pukur "Siach." The erroneous term "anok," reported by Fagg, was taken from the registration information given by Labouret at the Musee de l'Homme, where it was entered as "a-nok"; this is almost certainly a deformation of the Pukur "&ach"(pronounced similarly), Baga-ized through the addition of the prefix a- (as is not uncommon). Terms found among the Nalu are largely derived from the Baga "a-Tshol." They include "Matshioli Kuye" ("a-Tshol-society spirit" in Susu) and "Ninte-Kamatshol" (in Nalu, meaning obscure, incorporating "a-tshol"); the derivation of the name from the Baga suggests that the Nalu received the figure from them. The Nalu term "Mbeleket" refers to the small Tshol figures, and is probably an elaboration on the Buluiiits term "Elek," again referring to "medicine." None of the southern Baga groups used either form of the figure, at least within the memory of living elders.

60. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/&ach/Elek/MbelEket). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits/Nalu, late nineteenth century. Many smaller Tshol clearly represent a human head with a beak. Wood. H. 31.1 cm. Collection The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, New York.

61. Double-headed shrine piece (a-Tshol) with bellows part. Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Nalu, late nineteenth century. Two examples of this type are known, illustrating a connection to the blacksmith and to the Tonkongba headdress (carved on the blacksmith's bellows part) and a possible dual gender. Wood. CHAPTER V • THE WELFARE OF THE CLAN



62. Shrine piece (a-Tshol). Baga Sitemu, probably K'fen Village, late nineteenth century. The figure is consulted before the beginning of cultivation in a ritual called "to pierce the earth." Wood. Collection Robert and Nancy Nooter, Washington, D.C.

The context of the a-Tshol shrine figure was the sacred clan house—the kä-lo-kipon, or "great house" (kä-lo-kä-baki, "the house of the elders," in Baga Mandori; kii-lo-kii-boui, "the great house," or kii-lo-kä-kubwe, "the house of the elders," in Bulufiits). Each quartier, and in some cases each clan, could have its own ka-lo-käpon and its own a-Tshol or group of Tshol figures. Each of Monchon's seven clans, for example, had its own sacred house. The ka-lo-kä-pon could be a miniature shed or a full-sized house built specially for the sacred objects, or it could also be simply the home of the clan's oldest male member in charge of the regalia. Within the kä-loka-pon, the figure would be placed on an altar called the an-gbip; never should the a-Tshol touch the ground. Palm fronds hanging around the front of the altar shielded the figure from view. Associated objects and accretions were important to the shrine. A-Tshol could share its space on the altar with another headdress, the Tonkongba, about which we shall have more to say later. In the early 1950s, according to Paulme (1981), objects associated with justice and protection—vines, bark, shells, scorpion carcasses, and crab claws—would be placed on the altar as well. The figure itself would receive ritual accretions. Its base or socle would often be wrapped in red cloth (which some Western collectors are known to have removed); red kola-nut spittle would be rubbed on the head, as nourishment. Many figures in collections show extensive oiling of the wood and occasionally encrustation of the surface. In the ritual conducted in the ka-lo-ka-pon, the figure was used as an agent of transformation. Each clan possessed its own. It was at its feet that the family came to prostrate themselves and implore the grace of Kanu [the supreme God] so that he would guide their steps in the right way during the rainy season. The people would do this before beginning the work in the fields (elder, Muslim,Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). At the fall of the first rains, the family ritual priest must announce the resumption of field work by the people through visible signs. This is the ku-so-kop ["to pierce the earth with a shovel"]. On the evening of this ku-so-kop, all the old men and several other adults gather at the sacred house where all the sacred figures of the family are found, and all wishes are expressed and addressed to the different spirits of the earth and of the departed ancestors. This ceremony is accompanied by offerings in kind: rice in clay vessels, kola 90 CHAPTER V • THE WELFARE OF THE CLAN COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

nuts, a white rooster, whose blood would be collected and poured on the sacred figures. In certain cases, according to the family's material means, a billy-goat or bull with black hair would be immolated. The ceremony is ended with a ritual feast (Sekou Beka Bangoura). We ask it for help. When a child is sick, for example, it is sent to a-Tshol. It can move around by itself. Horns inserted into the head are filled with medicine. It is cared for by the oldest, wisest man—he is called um-them. Women can see it, even the children can see it, and foreigners (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1985). An elder lived in the kä-lo-ka-prin and the people would bring food and drink to him there as an offering. A-Tshol was kept on a board placed on the ground. There could be two or three together. Wine was kept there. If anyone plotted a misdeed, they brought him there to stop it. The wine offered to a-Tshol was poison to any guilty person. They made him drink it. But to others it was simply wine. Horns stuck in the head were ammunition to kill anyone who wanted to harm the youth and hinder the growth of the village. Each guarder had its own a-Tshol and kä-lo-ka-pon (elder, Muslim, Katako, Sitemu, 1986). If there was malice in the town, the a-Tshol figure would fall off the an-gbip to the ground by itself, and when the malice was corrected, it would replace itself on the shelf (middle-aged man, Christian, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1987). They were capable of moving themselves in a leap according to the magical formulas recited by their priests. The holders of Tshol are consulted by anyone who feels the necessity. A father of a family that, for example, has lost one of 63. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/Rach/Elek). Saga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth century. In all areas, the name "medicine" (figuratively, an agent of transformation) is given to the beaked head on a socle. Wood, metal. H.44.5 cm. Collection William Brill, New York.



its members, consults them in order to know to what kind of death his son has fallen victim, and goes to the ritual practitioner to bring a complaint, supplied with kola nuts and palm wine to offer to the Tshol. "I come to solicit your aid in view of the malice that has come to me," says the plaintiff to the master practitioner. "I have lost my child under mysterious conditions. I would like your spirits to tell me in all sincerity of what sort of death my child has fallen victim. This is the object of my visit with you." Thus the master practitioner begins to work. He wears a cache-sexe or a cloth attached around the back and takes a seated position. He wears on his head the [a-Tshol] and recites the formulas which only he understands, as he does this murmuring. A few moments later, he transmits the results of his work to the father of the family (Sekou Beka Bangoura).

64. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/Rach/Elek). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth century. Youths were introduced to a-Tshol at their initiation into adulthood. Wood, metal, fiber. H.60 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, Paris (69.6.1). Acquired 1969.

An extensive investigation of the procedures of the a-Tshol/tlek guardian in combatting sorcery may be found in Paulme's article of 1958, drawn from her brief fieldwork among the Buluriits and, to a lesser extent, the Baga Sitemu in 1954. Although Paulme writes that she owes "the main points" of her information to a relatively young man of about thirty-five (rather than to a savant), her data seem to have been confirmed, and coincide with parallel data of my own.(My principal caution would be with her transcription and translation of indigenous terms.) In one Baga village we observed the use of Tshol figures in their ka-lo-ka-pon, a small shed made of straw, inside which was a shelfâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the an-gbip (fig. 57). Two Tshol figures stood on this altar, with a Trinkongba headdress between them. On the ground in front of the altar were a number of gourds. We were permitted an inter-



view with the elder in charge, who was then caring for several patients with severe injuries. The elder told us a story—later confirmed through a detailed independent account by others—that seemed rambling and irrelevant at the time. But in fact it contains critical information. For in it we learn that the elder's ancestor was introduced originally to the healing arts by a blacksmith. I relate here only a summary of the very long tale. The ancestor and his friends used to tap palm wine in the forest in the evening, to be enjoyed the next day; for some time, though, they would arrive the next morning to find that someone had been drinking their harvest before they could retrieve the jug. So they set a trap. Breaking a jug and fitting it together to hold the wine, they set it at the usual place, and hid where they could watch. Sure enough, someone came, but when he took up the jug it collapsed. Springing from their hideout, the men demanded that the jug be restored to its original condition. No replacement would be accepted. Obviously this was impossible, and the stranger offered to give them instead "something which will be useful to you till the end of time." After much dickering the men agreed, and met the stranger that evening to settle the account. He told one of them to climb the palm tree, but when this man did so, he fell and broke his bones. The stranger then led them to a cotton tree, where the wounded man was miraculously healed with the help of palm wine, rice, and other elements (all, significantly, ranging from relatively colorless to pure white). The stranger then disappeared. Whenever healing is performed, however, the people can hear him pounding iron in the night. The healer we spoke with and his family, although extremely wary of discussing secret information about the figures and their use, did tell us something of the annual procedure: The altar is used by healers in charge of the ka-lo-ka-pon. In the rainy season the objects are taken into the owner's house. At the beginning of the dry season there is a big ceremony to bring them out and place them in the an-gbip. The blacksmith spirits come at night and the people can hear them banging on their iron. People come here to be healed. A-Tshol would be taken out of the ka-lo-ka-pon for only a few events: during the young men's initiation (ka-kantsh) into adulthood, where it was displayed, and during other most-sacred occasions, such as the initiation of young men and women together (kä-bere-Tshol), where it was danced. The dance was also performed at the death of an elder (at least among the Baga Mandori), at an important sacrificial ritual conducted every three years (among the Baga Sitemu), and, occasionally, at the annual replacement of the figure on its altar. The practitioner of a-Tshol explained the latter event: At the beginning of the dry season, the whole village participates in the ceremony to bring out the a-Tshol. This is after the harvest, and is called kä-wure a-Tshol rto bring out a-Tshol"]. Another ceremony is held at the beginning of the rainy season to bring them back to the owner's house. The Tshol are taken out and danced during the move from the house to the shrine, and danced again at the return. Otherwise they are never danced. The celebration at moving time does not take place each time; it is very rare. Sometimes there are ten to fifteen years between festivals. The festival lasts for three days. Why are the festivals so infrequent? A-Tshol is like a bomb—it has to be handled with extreme care, and the festivals require extraordinary care. The boys and girls of the kä-Bere-Tshol initiation would be exposed to the Tshol figures for the duration of their stay in initiation, at the end of which an a-Tshol is said to have been danced.




They were singing and went to look for the new initiates to bring them to the place of initiation [ka-lo-ka-pon] where they would lie flat on their stomachs directly on the ground. Everyone, boys and girls, lay down on their stomachs right on the ground in front of the a-Tshol.... That lasted for eight days without lifting the head (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). On the day of the initiation, the youth, at the first crow of the rooster, retreat to the kä-wal [forest grove] where they are joined by their families, before

whom they register on their backs the strokes of the swords and the whips, from the eldest of the group to the youngest. This first session of beating is followed by a second.... Both sessions of beating are presided over by the protector mask of the secret society, the spirit of the neophytes: the a-Tshol.... When the instruction has been well absorbed, the old men set the date of the coming out of the initiates with an extraordinary event.... the dance of the initiates, kä-pise Tshol, .. a-Tshol, borne by one of the adepts of the society (Abraham Camara 1975:34-35). For the period of the male initiation or ka-kantsh, the a-Tshol figure was removed from the ka-lo-ka-pon to the site of the initiation, called a-fan. This was a forest grove just at the edge of the village, where the young men were sheltered from exposure to women,the uninitiated, outsiders, and antagonists. At one end of the space was the entrance (kä-mbala), where an a-Tshol was placed on a pedestal as a sentry. At the other end was the exit (kä-patsh), guarded by a second a-Tshol.

65. Canoe headdress (a-Bil-iia-Tshol). Saga Sitemu, early twentieth century. The carving represents a canoe abstractly and was balanced on the dancer's head without any attachment. Wood, polychrome. L. c. 240 cm. Ex collection Mme.Jacqueline Nicaud, Paris, collected c. 1956.

66. Canoe headdress (a-Bil-iia-Tshol). Baga Sitemu, early twentieth century. Only two examples of this headdress are known in Western collections, suggest-

During the initiation in Bagaland, the spirits which inhabited the Tshol assume one of their most important roles. They are charged, in effect, with the surveillance of the dishes of rice offered by the families of the young initiates who are found hidden away in the forest. All the dishes that are brought are assembled together and submitted to a meticulous check before consumption. Every dish recognized to be poisoned is put aside and overturned by the Tshol, who, without delay, convict the one who offered it. Also, the female sorcerers who would attempt, out of curiosity, to follow the operation of circumcision in the forest are physically liquidated from society by the Tshol (Sekou Beka Bangoura). The figures remained at their respective sites until the end of the initiation. Among the Nalu it has been reported that gazelle horns filled with medicinal substances, and inserted into the hollow cranium of the a-Tshol figure, were distributed to the graduating initiates, who guarded them afterward (Galhano 1971:83).

ing a restricted distribution among just a few Baga . Sitemu villages. Wood, polychrome. L. 224 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection. Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller.(1979.206.66).

A-Bil-iia-Tshol and the Bearing of Good Things According to some Baga consultants, a-Tshol has a ritual mate: a-Bil-fia-Tshol, "The Medicine Canoe." This is a long panel carved along one edge of its length with a recession resembling the inside of a canoe. At the rear is a seat, and at the front a


prow. Abstract geometric designs are carved and painted in brilliant colors along the panel. A circular prow ornament protrudes at the front, and a pointed projection is at the rear, echoing the form of some real canoes. A-Bil-iia-Tshol has gone unmentioned in previous literature, but testimony from Baga elders suggests a long continuity.

67. Dance of a-Bil-tia-Tshol, Baga Sitemu. The canoe masquerade is performed in complementarity to the a-Tshol among the Sitemu. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

A-Bil-tia-Tshol did not have a kä-lo-ka-pon as did a-Tshol. The person who bore it in dance would guard it in his bedroom. A-Bil-fia-Tshol was for the initiation, kä-Bere-Tshol [for the boys and girls]. ... The day of the dance, I decorated it with cloths and handkerchiefs and I wore it to go dance. It was kept in equilibrium on the head by a thin cord attached at the front and held in the bearer's teeth. I carried it and danced it at the time we had gone to Katako to dance the kä-Bere-Tshol. On invitation, the boys and girls could go to dance in a neighboring village. It was on this occasion above all that a-Bil-ria-Tshol was danced (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). In ritual, the a-Bil-fia-Tshol, like the a-Tshol figure, was carried on the head. No special costume was worn. On top of the bearer's head, a hemispherical socle with a groove (resembling an enlarged head of a metal screw) would rest on a coiled headtie. The center of the panel's bottom long edge would fit into this groove. Small openings along the board's top edge would hold short sticks, from which cloth streamers flew. As the bearer danced within a circle, he would balance the panel with its flat, painted sides facing outward. The image would be one of a decorated, floating, two-dimensional canoe. Beating an iron gong, the dancer in a demonstration we saw moved deftly, with slightly flexed knees, floating his body back and forth across the space. The two CHAPTER V • THE WELFARE OF THE CLAN COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


dancers bearing a-Tshol and a-Bil-fia-Tshol never confronted each other; they usually went in opposite directions. Occasionally a-Bil-fia-Tshol would follow a-Tshol. Besides my own photographs, only one other photographic record has been made of the dance of a-Tshol, by Michel Renaudeau for the Paris phototeque HOA-QUI. In these photographs, the dance is accompanied by the hoisting of a real canoe onto the heads of a number of men. This confirms the association of canoes, either real or abstract, with the dance of a-Tshol, presenting a curious dyad that may be illuminated through the examination of the full artistic context, including music. Songs associated with a-Bil-fia-Tshol have to do with contemporary social issues, and they often also have a nautical edge. The following two songs describe a social improvement, the jobs, imports, and new markets that developed after the military takeover in 1984: The work We are seeing here— I swear to God—Here I swear, I swear to God. It was not so before. Oh, dear me,look. I swear to God, It was not so before.

wali we [Susu] siina sii niink no mo nail kali Allah [Susu] nkon nail kali [Susu] bilahi Allah [Arabic] ten da ri fe wololo na niink-o walahi Allah [Arabic] ten da rife

The trouble we had before— All that is ended. A ship has come bringing clothes During the military regime. A ship has come bringing clothes

kontofili [Susu] nke kii-na yi no mo nke ki-lip-o a-bil nen der iieti kere tshii-loto ya kori ya militer a-bil iien der nen kere tshii-loto

A third song regrets being unfit for the task of crossing the water to another island: 68. Dance of a-Tshol, Baga Sitemu. The headdress was simply balanced on the head without attachment and without costume. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1987.

Who can cross over there by sea? Oh! I can't.

e-e and kii-tshali di ta kä-ba-e e-e in tam fe-o

In these songs we see the expression of benefits brought and/or desired (but inaccessible) from the sea. In contrast, the avian a-Tshol refers to the air. Following an examination of the use of a-Tshol in dance, we shall attempt to further explore this dyad. The Performance of A-Tshol In men's dance, a-Tshol and a-Bil-fia-Tshol were the only headdresses worn without a costume hiding the dancer. Small holes around the bases of the small Tshol figures suggest that something was attached to them—perhaps simply some limited form of decoration, for among the Baga, Pukur, and Bulufiits, the a-Tshol headdress was simply balanced on top of the head.

69 (opposite). Dance of a-Tshol, Baga Sitemu. This

At the time of the ceremony...,multiple precautions are taken by the bearer to assure his personal safety and to ward off the eventualities that could be brought to pass by enemies come to attend the dance, not to share in the joy, but to disturb the enthusiastic atmosphere. Indeed, the bearer of the [a-Tshol] mask is often submitted to the deeds of his sorcerer compatriots, who secretly (as is their fashion) attempt to test their magical power against that of the mask in the course of the dance. If this experiment reflects their superiority, the mask soon founders, bringing ridicule, or falls right in the middle of the dance under the effect of the disastrous curse (Abraham Camara 1975:71).

dance took place during a three-day "sacrifice" in the sacred forest. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1987. 96 CHAPTER V • THE WELFARE OF THE CLAN COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

t. cn


They danced with it, first rubbing oil on it, between September and December to ensure a good harvest. It protected the swamps against malice. Antagonists would be poisoned (elder, Muslim, Katako, Sitemu, 1986). A-Tshol was danced in the early morning until the cock's crow, and then the people would eat. Then it could be danced until about eight a.m. The dancer wore a head-tie around his chest and carried a sword and a knife in his hands. You could see his face (elder, Muslim, Dobali, Mandori, 1987). It was the elaborate, big one that was danced. A pad was placed on the head to support it, and a head-tie was tied around the waist. It was danced in the morning around seven A.M. and in the afternoon around five P.M., when a member of the elder initiated men died or when initiation was taking place (elder, Muslim, Belebele, Mandori, 1987). When a-Tshol is danced, anyone can volunteer to dance it. When the drums are beaten, the dancer would be directed in his steps by the power of a-Tshol. There is no costume. It is not strapped to the head. It can be held by the hands on the head. But then the a-Tshol simply balances itself and there is no need to hold it because it becomes one with the dancer and it directs his movements (owner of a-Tshol, Muslim, Sitemu, 1987). A-Tshol could be separated from its stool. The head could be lifted up from its support (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). When it danced, the whole piece was danced and the head could rotate left and right in the hole in the socle. It just balanced on the dancer's headâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a-Tshol directed the dancer where to go. ... One person was chosen to do the dance, based on his skill of dancing, taught by an older dancer. Normally it was a young man (elder, Muslim, Katako, Sitemu, 1986). The Tshol here [fig. 57] are taken out for a dance only once a year. The dancer has been known to be driven by the a-Tshol all the way from [the shrine] to the port, where he wades into the water up to over his head, so he is completely submerged, and the a-Tshol rests on top of the water. He continues to dance, submerged, for some time (middle-aged man, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1992). In 1987 we witnessed the dance of a-Tshol in several Baga Sitemu villages, and in several different contexts, which I would describe as (1) demonstration of existing works for our benefit,(2) new reconstruction for our benefit, and (3) indigenous ritual to which we were invited. In the first context, which we were offered in four different villages, we saw the dance of an a-Tshol figure that had been carved recently to use in ritual since the fall of the Marxist government. In the second context, the dancer used an a-Tshol figure carved specifically for the occasion, in imitation of a figure illustrated in the album of photographs I carried with me. The third context was a three-day ritual ceremony, revived after a hiatus of nearly forty years, to which all Baga were invited. This ceremony, which was held in a sacred forest in conjunction with sacred and secret rituals, is described more fully in the last chapter, in the context of a discussion of the recent revival of Baga ritual and art. In the performance at the first village, an assistant led the a-Tshol dancer around the plaza at the end of a rope. Men beat on iron gongs and large side-beaten drums; the songs and the dance were somber, and in a minor key. Men in the crowd waved branches of leaves or staffs with tin-can rattles. The a-Tshol dancer would simply shuffle from one side of the plaza to the other, at the end of his rope. The performance ended with a dance entitled "The Goodbye to a-Tshol," in which the participating male dancers and drummers would sweep their hands down and out in front of their bodies, as if scooping something, and step forward on the first beat of each



four to a measure. Then, for six more beats, they would retreat. Then, kicking a foot outward on each beat, left and right, they would slowly move forward, then turn and reverse the movement. The performance was similar in a second village, but had simpler movements and some additional features. Two circles of participants formed, moving counterclockwise, the women circling inside and the men outside. One woman carried a gourd spoon. All the dancers were barefoot. They would swing to one side for one measure and to the other for one measure, with a beat of four to the measure. In a third village, the dancer of a-Tshol carried a knife in each hand, and was confronted in the dance by a second man, also holding two knives. The two men danced toward each other, somewhat crouching, waddling forward, and brandishing the knives at chest level. The a-Tshol dancer would kneel and continue to shift forward, while other men would also kneel before him and shift toward him. The a-Tshol dancer would then rise to a crouching position and continue shifting forward. As the second man approached him with knives raised, the a-Tshol dancer would step backward. Then he would crouch, quickly shuffle his feet, and bob his torso up and down. Approaching the camera, he would make threatening gestures with his knives. Photographs taken by Renaudeau (HOAQUI, Paris) show other scenarios: a-Tshol dances with men carrying spades, and making the motions of digging the earth of the plaza. Women dance with conical fish traps made of reeds. Men are seen lifting a heavy wooden canoe, presumably to dance it. By far the most fascinating dance of a-Tshol we witnessed took place during the three-day sacrificial ceremony, beginning with preliminary events on the evening of Thursday, February 26, 1987, and lasting from Friday through Sunday, March 1. The events we saw took place in the sacred grove's outer section. The quasi-public events to which this grove is devoted are open to all Baga but closed to all nonBaga; on this occasion the visiting art historian received a special dispensation. All participants were required to leave their shoes at the grove's entrance. The dance of a-Tshol took place on the ritual's third day, the Sunday, after several hours of drumbeating and general dancing by both men and women. It began around two P.M. and continued for more than an hour (figs. 68-70). The dancer wore only a pair of shorts, a head-tie wrapped around his waist, and a head-tie wrapped around the top of his head, on which the a-Tshol rested. It was festooned with palm leaves tied to its neck and left to fall over the socle, and a single palm branch was suspended from the knob on the back of its head. Carrying a wooden dagger in each hand, the dancer began by moving slowly through the milling crowd. Each of two men accompanying him wore a disheveled crown of dried banana-leaves. The a-Tshol dancer appeared to be in a trance, sometimes

70. Dance of a-Tshol, Raga Sitemu. The bearer of a-Tshol would enter a state of possession and would be guided by the headdress. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.



simply standing listlessly while the crowd danced around him. He occasionally strolled into the crowd, stepping with the beat set by the drummers, dipping down on the first beat of each four-beat measure, swiveling right and left at the same downward and upward movement, then reversing the motion. Old men would approach him, seemingly giving him directions. An immense crowd pressed toward the a-Tshol dancer, and a path was cleared in

front of him for the participation of other persons. One old woman became spiritually possessed, tore off her upper garments, and began to dance in front of a-Tshol. Facing him, she would bend over and flail her arms back and forth. The a-Tshol dancer crouched down and the woman marched out in front of him, throwing her arms out to the side on every other beat. The a-Tshol dancer, still crouching, stepped after her. She turned, danced toward him, and knelt down in front of him, swinging both arms at once in a vertical circle, up behind her and down in front of her toward a-Tshol. Still kneeling, she backed up, swinging her arms in the opposite direction. The a-Tshol dancer, still crouching, stepped toward her with each beat. She stood up, bent over, and approached a-Tshol. Eventually another woman, also possessed, joined the first, making the same movements. Later a man also joined, after a heated argument with others in the crowd, which may or may not have been theatrical. A second man approached, executing a martiallike move, swinging his legs in the air toward a-Tshol and swiveling. Several other people approached a-Tshol and held the palms of their hands in the air toward and around the figure headdress. The atmosphere of the dance of a-Tshol in this ritual was intense, darkly emotional, and forbidding, without the kind of joy that accompanies masked dances of the young. The dance was imbued with the gravity of the elders. The drum beat was heavy. The crowd's songs were somber, repetitive, in minor tones. A-Tshol was not a figure of entertainment. The lyrics of the songs accompanying the dance of a-Tshol are largely enigmatic, although elder savants certainly understand them. Some of this is not for us to know, and we must leave it at that. But some meaning has been revealed, and with this we can shed a bit more light on the art form. Some songs refer in different ways to conflict and resolution. One song expresses a desire for spiritual abilities in order to perform at a ceremony, in the face of a curse that has been invoked: I would like to take the voice of a spirit. I am going to perform where I will dance. They have invoked the Bunu. I would like to beg for the voice of a spirit So that I could go where they are competing.

pamba sim i ko Mk dim da honk in ko kä-wolsene nde in ko pisemo an ko le bunu o pamba sim na i teila kii dim da honk a i ko nde du-ru dam pusrene mO

To say "a-Bunu," i.e., to invoke the name of the people of Tolkotsh village, is a curse, for reasons that seem to have something to do with the ritual preeminence of Tolkotsh. Another song has to do with the upheaval in Bagaland with the coming of administration by the French. The Baga were unaccustomed to chieftaincy, but one man managed to get the French to appoint him chief at Era, and had the chief's drum (tabule) carved to proclaim his preeminence. The people composed this song in ridicule, and presumably invoked a-Tshol's power to protect themselves: Wake up and listen to the lies, Fatmata Bangoura [woman's name] The tabule is being beaten in our land Wake up and listen to the lies. Wake up and enter the [sacred] house



ma yefe ma tsharikal yem Fatmata Bangoura tabule tun kuM do-ntof ma yefe ma tsharikal yem ma yefe ma bere kä-lo nke

71. Shrine piece (a-Tshol/Rachalek/Mbeleket). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Pukur/Buluiiits/Nalu, late nineteenth century. There are many simplified versions of a-Tshol, stripped to the essential beak and handle. Wood. H. 38 cm. Collection Ursula Held, Ecublens, Switzerland; ex Maurice Nicaud, collected c. 1956.

To make a sacrifice— That's how they want to get the chieftaincy.

ma lame mo i to na fan kä-tende-be

Another laments the frightening presence of a sorcerer in the village. The voice seems to be that of a person of lowest rank, as she addresses the third-born sister as "elder": Elder sister, Tshapi, come,let me ask you. Mother Tshapi, come, let me tell you. I will not come to live in this village [and let a sorcerer drive me insane]. Oh, God,I'm afraid.

tara tshapi der ma i yifama nene tshapi der ma i luku ma i re yi no da-re nde i yone daku [Susu] e na nese o ala

Of Blacksmiths and Creation What could a-Tshol's connection to the blacksmith be? It is especially curious since the Baga do not traditionally work with metals. On the rare occasions when a blacksmith is found in a Baga village, he is generally non-Baga. On the other hand, precisely this may be our principal clue to the mystery. Blacksmiths occupy a mythic status not only among the Baga,for whom they are all the more awe-inspiring in their rarity, but also among groups such as the Malinke, where blacksmiths form an ethnic subgroup. While we cannot investigate thoroughly the role and perception of the blacksmith here (the reader may refer to McNaughton 1988 on the Manding and to Glaze 1975 on the Senufo), it should be noted that because the blacksmith creates the tools that make agriculture feasible, he has an extraordinary responsibility, and may be seen as the source of enormous possibility. Another important clue to the meaning of a-Tshol, and to his relationship to the blacksmith and to agriculture, may be found in one of the personal names given to him at Monchon: Katamba. This is certainly the Saga Sitemu word ka-tamba, meaning "the hoe," of the short type used by women (fig. 72). If we compare the form of the ka-tamba with that of the a-Tshol figure we see the figure in a whole new light: the a-Tshol head is simply the ka-tamba stylized, with a human head at the juncture of the handle and the blade. What the Baga describe as a beak, then, is only a trope, and so is a-Tshol's identity as a bird. The figure is an anthropomorphized spiritual cultivator. In this capacity a-Tshol bears comparison with the deified

72. Women hoeing the earth in May before planting, Saga Sitemu, Kaklentsh Village. The shape of the woman's hoe may be the model for the form of the a-Tshol figure. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.



73. Shrine piece (Elek). Bu'units, probably Monchon Village, early twentieth century. This probably unique figure without a substantial beak nevertheless exhibits the standard form of a human head and neck placed upon an elder's stool. Wood, metal. H. 32.3 cm. Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulouse (140). Acquired 1937; ex H. Labouret (expedition).

Manding figure known as Chi Wara, or "The Farming Beast" (Geertruyen 1979:34), who likewise represents a spiritual being credited with the introduction of agriculture. Chi Wara's formal manifestation is also similar to a-Tshol's: a composite of an antelope and an anteater, he has a long snout that is said to represent the hoe. A-Tshol was clearly one of the most powerful spirits of the Baga, but the image seems to refer to more. A name for the image, given to us again and again in various contexts, suggests an almost incredible conclusion: that a-Tshol is the Supreme God, Kanu. As the image of the Supreme God in sculpture, a-Tshol would be close to unique in Africa, and certainly unusual in the history of world art. 102 CHAPTER V â&#x20AC;˘ THE WELFARE OF THE CLAN COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

A-Tshol is a divinity (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1985). It was the name of Kanu that was pronounced at the feet of a-Tshol when we offered sacrifices. It was there that we asked for the grace of God (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992).

The elders chose one among them to be the person in charge, called wu-ka kaki-kJ-pan ("he who keeps the ka-lo-ka-pon") or wu-ka kanu ("he who keeps God")(elder, Bukor, Sitemu, 1986). The a-Tshol in the ka-lo-ka-pon represents Kanu—it is the image of Kanu (elder, Muslim, Dobali, Mandori, 1987). A-Tshol was considered to be Kanu (elder, Muslim, Belebele, Mandori, 1987). A personal name for tlek here [at Monchon] was Apayo Kanu. Allah is our word for God, but in the secret language it is Kanu [i.e., Baga Sitemu words are used in their secret language]. tlek was God himself—we prayed to it. Elek was Allah (elder, Monchon, Buluriits, 1987). This brings us to the lowermost element of the a-Tshol figure, the stool on which this figure of cultivative and creative power sat. The stool was the insigne of authority, the possession solely of the eldest patriarch of the clan. One of the patriarch's most important roles was the instigation of the beginning of the annual agricultural cycle. As the highest authority in precolonial Baga society, where there were no chiefs, the patriarch would certainly parallel the image of God, or, we might say, God was created in the image of the patriarch. The Baga, I think, would not disagree, in light of their general belief in their ability to create spiritual powers. Going on the assumption that complementary masquerades generally embody oppositions, what can we make of a-Bil-iia-Tshol, knowing what we do of a-Tshol? If a-Tshol represents the vertical, traditional descent of power from the highest spiritual source, the realm of God and the ancestors, what would the complement be in the context of the blessings of welfare? The form of a-Bil-iia-Tshol is the boat or canoe, a vessel used principally in trade, to take agricultural products to market, and to return with merchandise from other villages and ethnic groups. The songs of the dance of a-Bil-fia-Tshol suggest that the idea of the "boat" extends to the ocean-going ship; both "canoe" and "ship" are a-bil. A-Bil-ria-Tshol, then, as one of the songs above suggests, would relate to the benefits brought, not down from the ancestors, but across, horizontally, from the outside world; not by tradition but by transition. Another allusion is suggested, however, by a datum by "The Baga Youth": Apart from the intimate relations between man and woman, it is believed in Baga society that it is the spirits (a-karfin) who distribute children, who they send by way of the sea. Each year the women would get together to organize dances at the edge of the great wells of the village where the spirits would offer them children. Children born in the same month were considered to have been sent in the same canoe. The image of the canoe may relate to the creative role of the spiritual world in human fecundity, just as the image of a-Tshol, as the hoe, relates to the creation of Kanu in the realm of agricultural fertility. The world of the spirits, a-karfin, has little to do with the world of the Supreme God; the realm of the former occupies the same relative space as that of mankind, while the realm of the latter is remote, and not of this world. The sea-going spirit, a-Bil-ria-Tshol, and the airborne spirit, a-Tshol, dance in the same space at the same time, but in their crisscrossing paths they never meet.






The importance of the development of the youth is summed up in the proverb: "The child lion hunter attaches his belt(ofammunition)from a young age." In other words, the man of character knows the need to find support to lean on at a young age. But to really gain knowledge, the child should not believe himself to be more intelligent, more savant, than the adult. Whoever wishes to understand should be humble: "The child carried on someone's back cannot trample the carp beneath the feet of the one carrying him." That is to say that one cannot leap over the steps. Understanding is acquired by steps. Knowledge and know-how are accumulated in the course of the years and the initiations. — Blez Bangoura, L'Education Traditionnelle de la Jeunesse en Pays Baga, 1974: 57-58

Imagine then a scene on a sandy street in a Baga village. A tottering old man cautiously picks his way down the street, and coming toward him are two adolescent boys. He is a venerated clan elder, the father of the district chief. They are schoolboys. This is rural Africa, where respect for elders is legendary. As they meet, the two boys grab the old man and throw him, struggling, to the ground. No one is hurt; all the protagonists laugh, get up, and go on their way. The visiting art historian is speechless. With jaw dropped, he turns to his Baga guide for an explanation, and is assured that nothing is out of the ordinary: "The boys are the grandchildren of the elder, and when we meet our elders in the street, this is what we do." The ritual institutionalization of generational tension is fundamental to the phenomenon of the age grade in Baga society. Clues throughout the Baga subgroups suggest that this dialectic holds generally, though its expression may vary. It has never been systematically studied, so there is little data on it; but evidence of it surfaced through our research, most poignantly among the Baga Sitemu, from whom most of the following information derives. It is through the age grade that the individual passes the steps of initiation. By this institution, also, the children assure their self-education. It is by age grade that the work of hoeing in the rice fields, the transplanting of rice plants, the weeding, the winnowing and transporting collectively is accomplished. The organization in the sacred forest corresponds also to the age criterion. But also, the age grade contributes to better weaving a social solidarity— the individual leaves the restrained atmosphere of the nuclear family to be integrated in the vast, elementary collective of his age peers. By age grade, we mean the individuals of the same gender with approximately the same age and who pass together through the steps of initiation (Blez Bangoura 1974:19-20).

74. Children's masquerade with bird head, Saga Sitemu, Kawass Village. The model for this costume may be the most forbidden of all spirit manifestations, the supreme male spirit, a-Mantsho-iio-Pon. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990.

Following Blez Bangoura, I refer to the divisions of the Baga clan as age grades (do-kos in Baga Sitemu). My information pertains to the Baga Sitemu, the Pukur, and the Bulufiits, but I understand that at least in the past, other Baga subgroups were similarly structured. These groupings among the Sitemu are four in number, and each has a name (although individual Baga differ on the ages encompassed):(1)"those who beat the same dust" (a-sut ku-bon, the prepubescent children;(2) the adolescents or youths, sometimes called "the clever ones" (a-tshemp), to designate especialCHAPTER VI • THE CREATION OF STATUS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


75. Children playing with their toy car, Baga Sitemu, K'fen Village. "Those who beat the same dust" is the name given to the age grade of small children, who form their own social organization. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1992.

ly the "young adults," the upper range of unmarried youths;(3) the adults (a-biki), in charge of families; and (4) the elders (a-tern). The grades pertain particularly to the males, whereas the females are grouped less formally. Egalitarianism rules the age grade through to the gerontocracy, where each member has an equal voice. Transition points are rather clearly marked, with initiations and ordeals, although because of the extreme secrecy surrounding the elder grade, little is known of its rites of passage. Members of a grade recognize members of the same grade horizontally across clan lines, guarder, village, and even subgroup. For example, initiations of young men often group together several villages; Baga Sitemu and Pukur youths may be grouped together for the ordeal. Members of the same age grade between the Baga Sitemu, the Pukur, and the Buluiiits frequently engage each other for ritual events directed by the age grade. Grade members consider themselves as brothers, and often use this term to describe friends of the same group. Although age grades do not own specific areas, villages, sections, or houses, nor any means of production, they do own sets of ritual and the pertinent paraphernalia and ritual space, including masquerades and sacred groves, and in this sense there is some corporate dimension, as in an age set. Spatial segregation is operative in ritual gatherings—even at Muslim ceremonies today. Each group exercises a great degree of cohesion, with specific responsibilities to the village and clan, for example, tasks in the cultivation of rice, the physical maintenance of the village, the protection of the village, or the preservation of areas of knowledge. This latter responsibility became evident when I first came to Bagaland asking for information: I was almost always asked to consult with an entire age grade of the respective village. This meant that I would sit with a gathering of all the old men, or all the little boys, who would be represented by a spokesman. Only after spending several weeks with a village would I be permitted to speak privately with individual persons. While I do not want to present Baga society as utopian or even harmonious, the age grades do function, as the moieties do, to create a larger solidarity among the groups sharing Baga culture. How these age grades function vis-a-vis art will be explored throughout this book. The Age Grade and Ritual of the Children: A-Wut A-sut ku-bof, "those who beat the same dust," is the first phase in the evolution of the group among the young. It concerns the children of the same age who constantly play and romp together through the dust of the village. It is within the formation of the a-sut ku-bof that the children educate themselves. The a-sut ku-bof do not include all the children of the village. They include children of five to ten years from the same quartier, or of neighboring quartiers, which results in different groupings that get together day or night, either to play in the plaza of the quartier, to go fishing, or to accomplish little tasks... Together they make expeditions to the edge of the rice fields to search for wild fruit or for palm branches to construct their hut. Together they also go to the da-bat, pond, to bathe. At ten years of age, the children are old enough to fish with lines and to watch over the fields. ... Concurrent with these activities, there are many games, mimicking the activities of the village, or others which are battles organized by teams, such as the sport of ku-sut kä-bentcham, a game similar to hockey (Blez Bangoura 1974:21-22, 33-34). Ku-sut kä-bentcham was a game in which two teams used sticks to try to hit a ball through opposing goals. It was usually played on the beach, or on a stretch of sand in the village. It began with a ball being put in a hole in the center of the court. Two players tried to beat the ball out of the hole and send it flying to the opposite side. The game was rough: boys would use the occasion to strike out at their enemies, pretending to miss the ball and hitting an opposing player instead.


Here, play is the work. With clay or with the core of the banana tree trunk, the children make statuettes, canoes, vessels, mortars and pestles. They imitate also the dances and the songs, the work in the fields, and the work of the home (Blez Bangoura 1974:55).

Children create their own ritual societies and invent their own masquerades, which they call "to-lom," "sacred things." They seem not simply to mimic the elders (although there is an element of mimicry) but, more important, to manipulate and reinvent the cultural information they receive. This "work" of children may allow us some insight into the meaning of tradition among the Baga. If the Baga, as their society evolves, are always in a process of renegotiating their cultural forms, their children's play may be a microcosm of such negotiation, perhaps even its vanguard. Independently of adults, Baga children's organizations actively produce their own ritual, both in private ceremonies and as part of larger community celebrations. Their ritual often involves masks and costumes fabricated by the children themselves and known among the Sitemu generically as Tantsham pan. Their masquerades are frequently unwelcome at the adult public celebrations, but that intrusion and rejection are, again, part of the ritual of generational tension. At the three-day sacrifice we observed at a Sitemu village in 1987, a children's masquerade was performed. The evening before the sacrifice, as the adults danced, the young boys conducted their own event just to the side of the circle of adults. Their masquerader wore a costume of palm fronds, covered by a worn reed mat, and with a metal funnel turned upside-down on his head. Executing small steps, he would often spin around suddenly, as adult masqueraders often do to invite the crowd's cheers. Musical accompaniment for this dancer was provided by a motley crew of little boys, using an array of found metal objects as drums, gongs, and cymbals. Occasionally an adult would come over to try to drive the boys away, but to no avail. In times past among the Baga Sitemu, one of the most important children's masquerades was that of a-Mantsho-ria-Wut (a-Mantsho of the children). This character directly and expressly mimicked the adults' highly forbidden a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol masquerade. The boys would dance with a stick, holding it vertically: I know well the a-Mantsho-ria-Wut. It was made of little hoops tied together with cords and covered with branches of leaves woven together, and one got inside it to perform the dance. It had the form of a cabana covered with palm branches. One member of the group carried it. From the interior, he could see us but we couldn't see him. At Tolkotsh, for example, it was a long stick of wood wrapped in pieces of cloth gathered from the tailors' workplace. At the top, bells were attached, and at the bottom the palm branches. One of the group would take it in his hand. Each village had its manner of making it, and also each quartier, just as with the adults. It was only the little boys, imitating the adults. . .. It was the play of children, the littlest of children. They would dance it in the village in the presence of everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;men and women (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). We used to fabricate it to go and beg for rice from our mothers; we would go toward the kitchens and see our mothers gathered there. One group was designated to carry the fish, another the rice, and another the oil, the red pepper, and the salt. Everything we needed to make a good meal was carried away, because we prepared our meal there [in our sacred forest], and in the evening we would return to the village. In the forest also, the work was apportioned. There were, for example, the searchers of branches, etc. (middle-aged man, Christian, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). Baga children's rituals illuminate how the young learn from the elders, and how they use this knowledge to serve their own agenda. In 1990, at an event organized CHAPTER VI â&#x20AC;˘ THE CREATION OF STATUS



76. Children with their "sacred thing" surmounted by a vertical stick, Baga Sitemu, Kawass Village. Children create their own ritual societies and invent masquerades that seem to mimic the adult's forbidden masquerades,such as a-Mantsho-lia-Tshol. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

by adults to honor our research team's visit, the children of Kawass—perhaps creating their own version of the supreme male spirit, though no one said this—created a small costume, with a real bird's head at the pinnacle, that resembled the costume of the mammoth and formidable a-Mantsho-rio-Pon. The adults had brought out a masquerade; after some time, a huge band of children emerged from around the back of a house with a masquerade of their own (fig. 74). The adults were not amused—their welcome party was now being preempted by the children and their ragtag band of musicians and dancers. I, however, was intrigued, and shifted my attention to the children's masquerade. I was fascinated that these children had created a masquerade at all, especially one so obviously sacrilegious, at least from my point of view. When the adults noted my interest, they too began to pay attention to the children, and to celebrate their little performance. When I returned in 1992, we again visited Kawass and contacted the children, who treated us to a dance event. Their to-lom—their ritual tradition and masquerade—was already in force, and they were delighted by our interest. We watched them leave for a clearing in the woods just outside the village to prepare. After some time, with much hubbub heard from their little "sacred grove," the boys emerged in single file, following a footpath back to the village. In their midst was a costumed dancer, wearing an ensemble of banana leaves, cloth, and twine surmounted by a wrapped stick (fig. 76). This would seem to indicate that the masquerade was the aMantsho-fia-Wut, but nothing to this effect was said. A second dancer wore a headdress of cow horns mounted in a turban of cloth festooned with shredded palm leaves. After the performance we asked for an interview. The children gathered in a group, and a bigger boy presented himself as the spokesperson, explaining their procedure and introducing the main performers: We have a group. At harvest time, we go to the forest to prepare the to-lom [mask]. Before going there we first make the drums. While some of us are occupied with making the mask, others go into the village in search of chickens that the mask must eat in the sacred forest. After the meal is served, we bring the mask to appear in the village for the dance. We're used to making it in imitation of our older brothers and our fathers, who make them (Asoumane Camara, c. ten years, spokesman, 1992). I am the one who makes our to-lom with banana leaves, branches, and scraps of cloth. I tie together the ends of the banana leaves and branches, put together with a cord and covered over with the pieces of cloth. I make the to-lom and I wear it for the dance (Augustin Bangoura, c. ten years, artist and dancer, 1992). Our group is called Ta m Bok kä-Wak ["Don't even try to touch!"]. Our chief [u-be] is Daouda Camara, and I, Asoumane Camara,am the elder [u-biki] of the group. Our mask is called Abol Baki [a name of a man, a chief now deceased, often invoked in ritual](Asoumane Camara, 1992). I have seen my father make masks, and in imitation of him I learned to make them myself (Augustin Bangoura, 1992). Augustin Bangoura, the creator of the masquerade and its dancer, is the son of Boniface Bangoura, the chief of Kawass. Boniface happens to be the artist who produced the village's al-B'rak headdress, about which we shall learn more later. He has made no attempt to instruct his son in the making of to-lom; rather, the son has taken the initiative of learning this skill himself. Ritual and Masquerades of Youth At adolescence, boys enter a new stage: they form wrestling groups, and much of their ritual has to do with combat. They also continue to conduct their own ritual,


some of which involves masquerade, including some extremely serious characters feared by young and old alike. The age grade, it should be noted, is somewhat skewed at this point by the scheduling of two initiations, one to introduce young men to adulthood, another to introduce both young men and women to the knowledge of medicine, esoteric speech, and spiritual transformation. These initiations can fall anytime after the age of seven or eight, but can be postponed until young people are quite adult, even in their early thirties. Many factors affect the timing: the family's ability to handle the necessary expense, the community's readiness for such a costly, time-consuming undertaking, and other circumstances. The Baga consultants we spoke with commonly felt that initiation should ideally take place later, so as to mark the line between youth and full adulthood. But the youths' activities generally spanned these rites of passage, constituting their means of negotiating status over time with their elders, peers, and juniors. In the absence of these advanced initiations today, much of the traditional ritual of youth continues still, and elements of its social role still hold. The ritual associations, with their own initiations, that have formed are too numerous to mention here. Some concentrate on athletic prowess: in the Gbenka association, for example, boys compete in dance, clutching a heavy wooden mortar in their teeth. A core of these associations' procedure is ritual beating—beatings among older initiated boys, beatings among equals from different quartiers, and beatings inflicted by older boys upon younger neophytes. Much of both the public and the private ritual serves the purpose of establishing a line of power in relation to the authority of adults and elders. At the beginning of each dry season, when the new rice is brought to the village, the boys of fifteen to eighteen years of age meet, and secretly fix the date of ki-di a-lentshe. On the eve of the ceremony, all night, the youths proceed to steal firewood from the different homes, and collect it within a great enclosure that they have erected for the occasion. Once the wood is brought inside the enclosure, no woman is authorized to penetrate it to recover hers. The youths bring also chickens which they can steal out of the nests during the night. The conspiracy of theft ends at dawn, and then wood is exchanged for clean rice and condiments, while a certain amount is retained for the preparation of the feast. From ten A.M. to one P.M., the older ones of the group compete in the culinary arts at the interior of the enclosure. The feast is followed by dances and songs during which the boys tease the mothers who have been victims of the theft. At four p.m., the group staggers to the open field [da-klap], practically exhausted, where the boys of seventeen—eighteen years administer a whipping to their younger brothers, and there follows a battle between the youths of the same age under the surveillance of their older brothers. All the little boys are advised against speaking to the women of what has just happened in the field (Sekou Beka Bangoura). Young girls used to have their own ritual societies, separate from the boys' and somewhat more civil: The adolescent girls had a ceremony in which they went from house to house to pound rice for people, and then they were given clean rice to take home with them and cook for themselves—a sort of rehearsal for motherhood (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1987). Several of the masquerades conducted by adolescent boys and young men had a strong theme of defiance. These included the chimpanzee headdress te-Rimi, the giant leaf costume Wakarba, the overtly sexual couple Komne,and the bird headdress a-Ramp. Komne appeared in male and female pairs as a bristly bundle of dried grass or banana leaves; through pornographic antics, the masqueraders would disCHAPTER V I • THE CREATION OF STATUS



77. Te-Rimi (chimpanzee) headdress, Baga Sitemu. Teenage boys and young men form a second age-grade

rupt the ceremonies of the girls, frightening them and stealing their rice. Wakarba was a masquerade in which ten to fifteen boys would bear a single enormous costume of iiontsh-tree leaves. This figure presided over a youthful initiation of the same name, in which boys of opposing quartiers would challenge each other to ordeals of mutual beating with whips. The headdresses te-Rimi and a-Bamp are both carved of wood. Te-Rimi,"The Little Chimpanzee," is danced by boys, and is the center of a sort of secret society. We saw the dance at a Sitemu village in 1987. One of the masquerade's gestures is a shimmying or shuddering, a movement said to represent a man dying—a threat from the boys to the community, to instill fear of their power. The chimpanzee is seen as a thief, a character who is humanlike yet beyond human control—comical and cute, like the boys themselves, but also dangerous, as the youths are to the elders who cross them. This village's elders banned the dance in 1987 after the boys' society had accused them of involvement, through sorcery, in a man's death. In the dance of te-Rimi, the dancer hops around in a crouched position. He runs across the open circle formed by the crowd of young viewers, then leaps into a crouch again and sways back and forth. Returning to the center of the circle, he twirls around, first counterclockwise, then clockwise, and again leaps into a crouch. After each leap the crowd of boys and girls runs to surround him, dancing in a circle. Te-Rimi crouches on the ground, bowing down, and shivers; the crowd cheers and huddles around him. Songs accompanying the dance are rude, "in your face":

and create their own masquerades, many of which defy their elders. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.

78. Headdress in the form of a chimpanzee (te-Rimi). Baga Sitemu, probably Mareii Village, late twentieth century. The chimpanzee represents the mischievous character of the teenage boys and young men. Wood, cloth, fur, plastic, paint. H. 70cm. Collection JeanJacques and Michele-Berthe Fournel, Paris. Acquired 1982.

The chimpanzee shits in his own house. Hey, the shit is stinking!

a-rimi-o ko ncltip-o e-e-e nini yensen-o

Te-Rimi is very much a symbol of youth. Where this masquerade occurred, it clearly disenfranchised older people; and though some watched the event, many did not even attend. The masquerade is one example among many in which the youth provide an impetuous counterpoint to the authority of the elders. It certainly creates tension between the two age grades, which, however uncomfortably, supports the structure of the rather contentious Baga cultural system. A headdress shaped as the figure of a large bird has long been one of the most popular masquerades of young men and boys. It is called simply "the bird"— a-Bemp" in the Baga Sitemu dialect, "a-Bamp" in Landuma and all other Baga dialects, and "Koni" in Susu (who simply observe its use among the Baga). Each headdress may also bear a personal name in honor of a woman of the village. A-Bamp appears throughout the Baga region, including all the Baga subgroups, and the Buluiiits, Pukur, Nalu, and Landuma. The headdress can range in form from softly naturalistic to extravagantly abstract and composite. Baga Sitemu figures tend toward the naturalistic, Baga Koba toward the abstract. The basic headdress is simply a bird form with a long neck, a long beak, a pot-bellied body, and broad striped wings over the back. A stake extends down from its belly, used to insert into an armature that the dancer wears on his head. Many of these figures bear twin miniature birds on their backs, often in conjunction with a miniature house. A checkerboard pattern often appears on the bird's front. There are infinite departures from this basic form. Attachments may depict the Baga woman, model canoes, and airplanes. There are also idiosyncratic representations—a colonial officer holding a D'mba headdress, for example (fig. 177), or soldiers with guns. Some examples are almost completely abstract and extremely complex, incorporating bird and serpent forms as well as indeterminate geometric shapes (figs. 9, 238). One detail stands out, as a curiosity, in all this: the model house. A house is also seen on another headdress, the Banda, which will be examined in a later chapter. No


consultant explained the motif's significance, but there are clues to it within the common, quotidian Baga culture. As the a-Bamp and Banda dances are the work of young men, it is reasonable to assume that they might relate to male desire and ambition. The house is the symbol par excellence of the gratification of sexual desire. Traditionally, it was only at marriage, preceded by the requisite initiation, that the young man built his own house. It was to this house that his brothers carried his bride on their shoulders following her marriage, which (for the man) is called ka-gbanne, meaning "to carry on the shoulders." And it was in this little house that his marriage was consummated. The more general term kä-/o, "to marry," also means both "to build" and, as a noun with its prefix, "house." Especially in the past, when initiations were sometimes delayed as late as the age of thirty and when a stricter ritual climate prohibited heterosexual intercourse before marriage (as the elders recall), the metaphor of the right "to build" must have taken on compelling emotional significance for both young women and young men (especially for the heterosexual majority). It seems significant that the model house is placed on the forehead—the mind—of the Banda headdress's human face. The a-Bamp headdress does not consistently represent any particular bird in nature. Many examples have head crests, suggesting the elegant large stalking birds of the sea inlets, with their crowning tufts of feathers (see fig. 82). Confirming information received by other researchers among the Baga Kalum (Kjersmeier 1932:198), the Baga Sitemu and the Bulunits (Paulme 1962:68), and the Nalu (Quintino 1964:287), consultants we spoke with identified the bird as either the egret or the pelican—both fishing birds of the sea or of the marigots. A song accompanying the a-Bamp dance, however, refers to a smaller bird, and suggests that the bird concept may be more inclusive: Beti's [woman's name] mother The birds are eating all her rice in the fields Because she has nobody to drive them away.

e konmoro beti kere gbaria yo some ko maid da-le nte on ta yo(urn fiwe iim bume ko mei

79. Bird headdress (a-Bamp/a-Bemp) with two smaller birds. Probably Baga Koba, early—mid-twentieth century. The Koba are most noted for their elaborate abstract bird forms. Wood, polychrome. The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of John J. Brady, Jr. (1992.33).

The dance of a-Bamp is athletic. The dancer skips around the perimeter of the circle formed by the audience. He crouches and then leaps up; or, crouching, he tilts to the right and left. Occasionally he may twirl, accelerating his steps, and end by lifting the headdress above his head and spinning it around. Accompanying the dancer are men beating the large slit gong, box drums, and smaller drums suspended under their arms. The dance generally takes place at night, so a young man may follow aBamp with a torch made from a lit bundle of grass. A-Bamp may appeal to young people because of its reference to stalking and seizing. Given its natural faculty of flight, it is associated throughout the area with transcendence and with supernatural abilities. We might add that the a-Bamp masquerade may be a sort of boys' rehearsal for an important role in manhood—that which we will encounter throughout our discussion of Baga arts and ritual. Again and again, seizure by young men is the mechanism by which the Baga have reinvented themselves—not by rejecting the available tradition, but by appropriating it. Seizure, as we shall see, has also been a principal way to obtain a wife, and is an underlying principle in Baga concepts of the female, as expressed in the female form in sculpture. But that is the subject of a later chapter. The Initiation into Manhood: Ka-Kantsh Initiation into adulthood among the Baga is said by our informants, without exception, to be of long tradition only for the boys, where it is clearly unique in its procedures among the ethnic groups of this area of West Africa. Male initiation among the related Temne in Sierra Leone, for example, bears no resemblance to it, and seems more allied to traditional Susu and Malinke initiation (Lamp 1978). Baga initiation for girls into adulthood, however, was said everywhere to be imported from the neighboring Susu—a phenomenon to be discussed further in chapter IX—while

80. Headdress with three birds (a-Bemp/a-Bamp). Baga, early twentieth century. Many bird headdresses resemble the pelican. Wood, polychrome. H. 49.5 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, Paris (1963-178). Acquired 1945.



the girls' initiation among the Temne, entirely different from that of the Baga, is said by them to be of long tradition, and in fact has been documented for centuries (Lamp 1985:34, 37). Among all the Baga, the general name for the initiation of young men into adulthood was to-/om, "sacred things." Each subgroup also had its more specific reference. The Baga Sitemu and Mandori called it ka-kantsh, "of the mangrove wood." The seclusion of the boys took place in a forest grove outside the village. Theoretically held every fifteen years among the Sitemu and every twenty-four years among the Bulunits (Paulme 1956:106), this initiation sometimes actually recurred after as little as seven years (at Katako it was held in 1948, then scheduled, but not held, for 1955) or even six years (it occurred at K'fen in 1946 and again in 1952). Although throughout most of this century the duration of the initiation seclusion was about six months (the duration of the dry season), longer ago, in the memory of the very oldest Sitemu men, each session lasted seven years, within a fifteen-year cycle. (This is confirmed for the early nineteenth century by the report of Rene Caillie; 1830:154). Initiations ended among the southern Baga in the early twentieth century; they continued among the Baga Sitemu, Pukur, and Buluiiits until the 1950s, but ended in every area with the general conversion to Islam. Initiations throughout the Baga cultural area were similar, with one major exception: the patron and central figure among the Baga Sitemu and Pukur was the towering bird spirit, a-Mantsho-rio-Pon, whereas among the other groups it was the Serpent, a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol). The initiation among the Sitemu began with the appearance of two supreme spirits, first the male spirit a-Mantsho-rio-Prin, then the female spirit a-Bol. Each instituted a "closing of the land" (kä-rier), a cleansing ritual of abstinence that prepared the way for the young man to begin a sensitive and potentially dangerous procedure—a six-month initiation in the forest grove. The beginning of this initiation was generally scheduled several years after the first appearance of the two supreme spirits. The model, which was only flexibly observed, would have been: Year Year Year Year Year

1: 2/3: 4: 7: 15:

visit by a-Mantsho: "closing" (1 month) visit by a-Bol "closing" (a few months) visit by a-Mantsho: "closing" (6 months), male initiation visit by a-Bol "closing" (a few months) cycle begins again with year 1

The first order of business was circumcision, said to be the work of the male spirit a-Mantsho-no-Pon, although the boys would not see him at this time. Then the young men spent six months mastering various skills and immersing themselves in the intricacies of Baga culture, learning discipline, dance, music, and the arts. Various masks were used: among the Sitemu, principally the forest-spirit mask Dudu, and elsewhere the immense Banda mask, incorporating the forms of the crocodile, chameleon, serpent, and human. Finally the initiates were introduced to a-Mantsho-rio-Pon for the first time, in a harsh ordeal: Ka-gbal-tsii-tsa [the wave goodbye] is the name of the entire ceremony that begins with ka-gbop [the embrace].... Not every initiated man may come close to wu-Them ["The Old Man," a-Mantsho-rio-Pon]. It is kri-gbrip, the final ceremony of initiation, that gives this right. ... The men of the village form two parallel lines. Wu-Them sits at the end. The men have whips. The boys run between the rows of men toward wu-Them and they are flogged along the way. Many give up. The first boy who reaches wu-Them and touches him is given special privileges, and his family has special honor (middle-aged man, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1985). This terrifying event is generally remembered well into old age, and is recalled in a song the older men sing:

81. (opposite): Dance of a-Ramp, Baga Koba. The dancer is athletic, spinning the costume, and eventually lifting and twirling the headdress above his head. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.




That sacred place is far. The owners of the ropes are finished. The whips are cracking at the sacred place. Lord have mercy, That sacred place is far. Kakilambe is shaking at the sacred place. The supernatural eye at the sacred place. Keep quiet.

pain bole ri-o—ka-wet-o-o aka yimki nya lip-o mä-bamba ye fikle-o—ka-wet-o apayo piim bole ri-o—ka-wet-o Kakiiambi kiin tshinkl-o—ka-wet-o son ropan-o—ka-wet-o ta'm tshopiin-o

The song tells of the boys' dread at seeing the long, treacherous road that they must run. The "owners of the ropes," i.e., the clan heads who control Kakilambe (a-Mantsho-rio-Pon), have ended their ritual, and now they are cracking their whips in anticipation of the boys' running the gauntlet. The "shaking" of the highest spirit is an ill omen, referring to the shivering of those about to die. A-Mantsho sees everything and everyone. This is a time of silent awe. The cycle of the supreme male spirit now completed, it remains for the completion of the female: A-Bol appears for six months, only during the dry season, and disappears with the beginning of the rains ... three years after the introduction to a-Mantsho-rio-Pon. A-Bol comes then to see if the initiates have progressed well, as she is a mother.... Ka-gbeip-a-Bol [the embrace of a-Bol] is the name of the ritual (middle-aged man, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1985). 82. Goliath heron (Ardea goliath; Saga Sitemu: a-war). Such stalking birds of the marigots may have served as the model for the a-Bamp headdress. Drawing: Dekeyser and Derivot 1966, II: Pl. 12.

For the initiation to a-Bol, it should be underlined that there is no beating. A-Bol, who is a feminine principle, stands in opposition to the brutality and the suffering represented by her masculine counterpart, Aparan (a-Mantshorio-Pon), with the kind of tyranny a grandmother shows her grandchild—the softness and the caress (Sekou Beka Bangoura). Ka-Bere-Tshol: Introduction to the Arts of Transformation The agency of "transformation" to the age grade of adulthood was the initiation called kä-bere-Tshol ("entering the medicine") among the Baga Sitemu, and ma-Tshol ("things of the medicine") among all other northern groups, including the Nalu, Buluiiits, and Landuma. This ritual took many forms, but its unifying characteristics were the assignment of new personal names, an esoteric vocabulary used only in the initiation (see Bangura 1972:86), and the introduction to the high Serpent spirit a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol. Among most groups, this initiation was the central initiation for young men, but among the Sitemu, kä-bere-Tshol included both males and females and was separate from the central initiation into adulthood. Everywhere the initiation featured all the masquerades that bore the name "Tshol," "medicine": the a-Tshol (the bird-beaked shrine figure), a-Bil-ria-Tshol (the abstract canoe, among the Sitemu), D'mba-da-Tshol (a hideous female headdress, among the Sitemu and Pukur, discussed in a later chapter), and a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol (the Serpent). The initiation to the secret of the Tshol takes place in the dry season and lasts three to four weeks (Sekou Beka Bangoura).

83. Bird headdress (a-Bemp/a-Bamp). Baga Sitemu/Koba/Kakissa, early twentieth century. Heavy birds with ornamentation on the head or back are most characteristic of the Sitemu. Wood, polychrome.

In the morning, the initiated elders went out by groups, charged with combing the village, with the obligation to install all the youths, of both sexes, in the sacred houses to be initiated to Tshol. The division of initiation was made by quartier (Adolphe Camara). When they were initiated, they all slept in the same room, the boys at one side and the girls at the other. A-Tshol, their protector, remained in the middle of the group....

Collection Si!vie and Marceau Riviere, Paris.


84. Four staffs, one with finial in the form of a-Tshol. Baga Mandori/Nalu, mid-twentieth century. Initiations of young men into adulthood involved many arts, including the a-Tshol shrine figure as protector and the use of staffs. Wood. H. 43 cm.(longest). Lindenmuseum, Stuttgart (120520-26)(120524: a-tshol). Acquired 1958; collected by Horst Luz.

They were beaten three times a day—morning, noon, and evening. They were beaten so hard that some were injured, and the blood would run down their backs. Once they had gotten inside the house, they would dance so that they would not hear the cries of those outside who were wounded and could not bear the blows of the whip (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). One week before the end of initiation, a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol paid them a visit during the night, and the door to the room was defended by the boys against the "male image" which wanted to penetrate inside and administer blows to the boys. The youngest would tremble in fear, but the older ones encouraged them to stand firm (Adolphe Camara).

85. Belt with ornamental staffs. Nalu/Baga Mandori, early twentieth century. Carving and the construction of art objects was learned by the boys in the six-month initiation. Wood,snake skin, metal. H. c. 30 cm. Lindenmuseum, Stuttgart (120527). Acquired 1958; collected by Horst Luz.

When the education has been completed, the elders then fix the date of the coming-out ceremony of the young people. This always corresponds to the fall of the first rains. The day of the ceremony, the initiates are conducted in the morning to the sacred house, ka-lo-ka-pon, where they receive "holy" water on their bodies—water composed of liquid from crushed vines and other objects ground together that are deemed to have a natural power. Next is the selection of the best dancers who must perform at the public place in the presence of all the village (Sekou Beka Bangoura). From the sacred house, the initiates go in single file, nude to the waist, to the public place where the dance of the initiates, kä-pise Tshol, is organized. This CHAPTER VI • THE CREATION OF STATUS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


86. Final dance at the coming-out of male initiates. Baga Sitemu, Kalaktshe. A magnificent dance by the staffbearing initiates concluded the initiation period, normally held every fifteen years. Photo: G. Labitte, 1942. Courtesy the Institut Fondamental de l'Afrique Noire, Dakar.

88. Mask representing an antisocial spirit (Dudu). Baga, midâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;twentieth century. Grotesque masks were worn by older initiates during the initiation of 87. Costume of a male initiate at the coming-out

young men, to distract attention from the initiates

before the final dance (reconstruction). Baga Sitemu.

when they appeared in public. Wood, polychrome.

89 (opposite). Dance of Dudu, Baga Sitemu. The

When entering the town, no initiate should be seen

H. 39.4 cm. National Museum of African Art,

grotesque masker performed at the final coming-out

by the women before his final release. Photo: Frederick

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., gift of

ceremonies as a form of comedic entertainment.

Lamp, 1986.

Dr. and Mrs. J.P. Keeve (77-36-6).

Photo: Oumar Tall, 1987.




91. Elephant tusk navel drum (de-sek). Baga, eighteenth窶馬ineteenth century. This drum was held extending from the navel, and was beaten to send messages from one village to another, the prerogative of the adult men. Ivory, cowhide. H. 63.5 cm. Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal (EE 630). Acquired 1950.

90. Headdress in the form of a serpent (a-Mantsho-naTshol).Baga/Nalu/Landuma/Pukurn3ulutlits, early twentieth century. In the advanced initiation for young people to enter adulthood, the initiates were introduced to the Serpent spirit. Wood, polychrome. H. 187cm Royal Ontario Museum,Toronto (971.165.492).


92. Drum (timba) supported by a horse. Baga Koba?,

93. Timba drum beaten by a man standing on an

early twentieth century. The final dance of the

upturned mortar, Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. These

advanced initiation was accompanied by immense

drums, beaten only by adult men,could reach a height

drums like these, which celebrated adult power. Wood,

of 175 cm. Photo: an unidentified Catholic missionary,

hide, fiber, polychrome. H. 169 cm. Royal Ontario

c. 1930. Courtesy Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Paris.

Museum, Toronto (959.170).



dance is performed to two traditional musical instruments: the te-ndef(a small drum about 1 meter high) and the timba (of a height between 1 and 1.5 meters). Situated in the middle of the circle of viewers, the te-ndef drummer is placed beside the timba drummer, who is perched on a stool or a mortar to give him height to enable him to tap on the drum head with two carved sticks. The harmony of the sounds of the th-ndef and the timba exalts the hearts and moves all the people of the village, who run to give homage to the "valiant

hearts," dancing around the musicians. This dance is reserved strictly for those already initiated, and it generally takes place during the night, and is for spectators only from the ranks of the brotherhood. It is of great importance that this dance of the coming-out of the initiate is presided over by the headdress, a-Tshol, borne by one of the adepts of the society, held at the head of the line of initiates parading around the drummers. Listening to the praise of the divinity, the initiates take up, in chorus, a song led by the bearer of the headdress or by an elder. This dance ends at dawn and marks an important step achieved by the young people henceforth tied to each other by the severe ordeals they have experienced (Abraham Camara 1975:35).

The Adults Having just submitted to all the ordeals of initiation into adulthood, the young people, though now a class of adults, are nevertheless too young to be admitted to the council of elders. But they execute the deliberations of the elders. Though having no voice, they attend all the assemblies of the old men. As heads of their families, they are required to respect the decisions taken in council in the sacred forest by the elders. It is among them that the secret police are chosen, who must keep strict watch over the observance of the a-fan, or divine law. In order to progress to the rank of elders, the adults are evaluated according to their conduct, their respect for the a-fan, and their practice of the customary obligations. The adults, because they are a-di-a-Mantsho 1.-no-Pon)["those who have 'eaten' a-Mantsho"—have "swallowed" the ordeal of initiation], i.e., those initiated to the secrets of Kakilambe ... are privy to numerous, profound secrets which they cannot reveal (Blez Bangoura 1974:21). The initiation of kä-bere-Tshol involves both young men and young women together. All succeeding ritual association, however, is divided into male and female realms. Throughout Bagaland, the women develop special bonds through initiation into higher ritual organizations, open to all women who have become mothers. These will be explored later in the chapter. The men do not have such organizations per se, although they may, in certain cases, join the female-led organizations, and they do have particularized organizations according to social status.

94. Kneeling female figure. Buluilits, probably Monchon Village, early twentieth century. Female figures were used by many of the adult women's organizations. Wood, red pigment. H.62 cm. Musee BarbierMueller, Geneva (1001/3). Acquired before 1939; ex M.de Vlaminck.

Male Leadership and the Male Drum For men, before Islamization, the main ritual occupations were control of the initiation into adulthood, further immersion in esoteric knowledge of the sacred, and the use of restricted ritual paraphernalia. One of the most important of these objects was the drum that all the Baga groups, as well as the Landuma, Nalu, Pukur, and Buluiiits, call the timba. The right to use these immense drums was restricted: they were played by men only. Their principal use was in the dances of the kä-bere-Tshol initiation, but they were also played at weddings, the funerals of male elders, and sacrifices to the ancestors, especially after the harvest. The iconography of the timba contributed to the aura of authority that the adult men wished to construct. Always the largest Baga drum, the timba has been regis-



95. Drum (timba) supported by a female figure with smaller figures. Saga, early twentieth century. Some timba drums are decorated with cryptic designs. Wood, hide, fiber, pigment. H. 139.7 cm. The Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.(62.6). Acquired 1962.

96. Dance of a-Tekin with woman bearing clay pot, Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village. A-Telcan was the organization for adult women, whose dances often featured metaphors of bearing. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

tered as high as 170 centimeters (about five feet six inches, the height of an average Baga man). A photo taken around 1930 at the village of Katako shows a drum of this size, perhaps even taller (fig. 93). The timba could be played only by standing on a stool or an upturned mortar. The drum barrel, usually cylindrical with a rounded bottom, was generally around fifty to seventy-five centimeters in diameter, and accounted for half of the instrument's bulk. The top was covered in cowhide secured by thongs to wooden pegs inserted into the barrel around the upper edge. The barrel's side was frequently incised and painted with elaborate designs, such as arcs, circles, chevrons, lozenges, foliates, florets, and abstract designs, often seemingly cryptic. Some of these are lined up in rows so as to suggest a linear reading, as in secret script (fig. 95). The form of the timba drum is a drum barrel placed atop a figural substructure. This substructure could take a great number of forms, including human figures (sometimes in the style of the great D'mba [Nimba] headdress), horses and other animals, birds, and abstract designs. Groups of figures are common,such as a mother and children (fig. 95), or human and animal figures together. The timba was clearly one of the sculptor's greatest commissions, and one on which he bestowed his greatest creative efforts, imagining all sorts of formal combinations, including interlocking forms (fig. 93), juxtaposed figures, and plays on architecture (fig. 181), furniture, household items, and pure abstract form. The timba drums with the most elaborate substructures are those attributed to the Baga Sitemu, Baga Koba, and Pukur. The entire image presented by the timba might be better understood if we regard it as a large drum head seated upon a stool. The timba substructure is very similar to, if generally somewhat larger than, the stool of an elder. We shall examine the elder's stool below, along with the role of the elder age grade; suffice it to say here that only an elder could own a carved stool. These stools generally had a round seat supported by either buttress forms or, in the most elaborate case, human and animal figures. Sitting on such a stool, the timba drum barrel seems to substitute for the elder, perhaps as the elder's voice in ritual affairs. Female Leadership and the Female Drum One of the most enduring ritual institutions of the Baga,from the Mandori in the north to the Kalum in the south, has been the institution for adult female solidarity. A number of these institutions continue to exist today: among the Baga Sitemu the organization is called a-Tekan, and is similar to that of the Baga Mandori, called a-Warna or M'Nyando,and of the Bulutiits, called Keke. The Baga Kakissa, Koba, and Kalum have had an organization, called Menda,that seems more closely related to traditions among the Temne to the south, and that has included men to some extent. In the past the initiations to these sodalities were open, generally, to women who had given birth. Curiously, despite their importance in Baga culture, none of these women's organizations is mentioned in the previous literature. Even Denise PauIme, in six works on Baga social structure published from 1956 to 1981, never once noted the existence of the women's ritual and associations. Yet the women's ritual is of outstanding importance for the Baga. And their artistic accoutrementsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;some produced by women,such as pottery used in dance, and some by men, such as caryatid drums, but designed and commissioned by womenâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;are among the most spectacular contributions by the Baga to the world of African art. Among the Sitemu, a-Tekan "is more important than the male society," a Guinean national cultural leader advised me when I first came to Conakry. Indeed, this proved to be true, and the largest part of my visual documentation by video concerned the dance, music, and sculptural tradition of the women's association. At all events of the Sitemu and the Buluiiits, it was the performance of the women's association that was most gripping.


In most villages, a-Tekan was open only to primiparae. As with all Baga ritual, the organization was clan-based, each clan having its own chapter and its own sacred forest grove (a-wop-iia-ren). The most authoritative a-Tekan chapter was that headed by the ka-Tom clan, ironically the clan of lowest historical status, but the clan most highly regarded for spiritual powers: "Ka-Tom women are in charge of a-Tekan because they know the medicines" (middle-aged man, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1987). Knowing what we do of ka-Tom ethnohistory, one wonders whether the ka-Tom, the Keita allied before the migration with the inland Manding, might not have brought a Manding institution to the Baga of the coast. A-Tekan would function at various events of importance to women. A group of members would perform at the great public feasts that took place at the funerals of important female elders. They also undertook wedding celebrations, following a woman of the village to her village of marriage, showing her their support, and demonstrating their performative excellence to the groom's people. Their most frequent performance would be in the reception of visiting dignitaries, such as a foreign chief, a colonial emissary, a male or female delegation from a neighboring village, or an American art historian and his Guinean research team. The most elaborate a-Tekan ceremony was the initiation of new members, which took place each year during the dry season and lasted one week. On the eve of the ceremony, the adult women go to search for crabs among the mangroves, and all those invited to the ceremony come to assist them. All night long, the women dance partially nude. Some blows of the whip are administered to the young mothers who are to be initiated. In the morning, the ritual meals are prepared and consumed with palm wine at the place arranged for this event. There, all the art objects of the female world are gathered together and wrapped with vines. Kola juice and rice meal are poured on the object. In the ceremony, the women address prayers to the ancestors and to the tutelary spirits of the village, and present offerings to them. By the prayers, the women solicit the protection of their children in their homes from the world of the supernatural beings. One notes that there is, in this ceremony, the absence of blood, which is the symbol of cruelty in the mothers' eyes. The ceremony of ki-di-a-Tekan [eating a-Tekan] ends with a varied number of dances to the sounds of the te-ndef, the drums belonging to the feminine world (Sekou Beka Bangoura).

97. Ceramic vessel (kä-be) for wine. Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village, early twentieth century. Large vessels were made by the women and used for serving palm wine on special occasions, such as weddings. Clay. H. 46 cm. Collection Frederick Lamp, Baltimore.

Women's performances usually entail a group of drummers and a circle of dancers, all members of a-Tekan. The drummers use small kettle drums, generically called a-ndef, but because the drum barrel is comparatively small, the diminutive form of the same word is often used: te-ndef. Each dancer holds something, such as a cow-tail switch or a bunch of leaves. Many women also carry things on their heads: a large or small rice basket (kii-fala or ta-fala), a large calabash, or a heavy clay water-container(a-be). Their gestures include scooping their hands forward and then placing them on the breasts. Not surprisingly, the songs a-Tekan women sing to accompany their dance often have to do with the universal problems of mothers: [Solo]: Young girls, listen. We are worried. When the elders speak, The young one should listen, [Chorus]: Oh, listen. We are worried. When the elders speak,

e-e a-wut a-ren nä ne-o ni mise dembiipsana a-biki ña sumu wan fet pa-ne ti-ba e nä ne-o

ni mise dembiipsiina a-biki ña sumu



The young one should fear.

wan fet kä-nese ti-ba

Women's refusal to defer to men, to be regarded as second class, is the subject of one song: [Solo]: We don't like shyness[cold]. [Chorus]: Because they disdain us, You all: Stand up and go!

sana sii fan fe 6-tshatik mo nte nam biriki siina-e e apayo ni yeran pan kon

Another song flaunts women's powers, and warns men to respect them and their sacred ritual: [Solo]: We have brought our ritual into the village. Please, don't touch it! Women can manage anything! Oh God, don't touch it! [Chorus]: Oh God, don't touch it! Women can manage anything! Please, don't touch it!

98 (opposite). Drum (a-ndef) supported by a serpent resting on a kneeling female figure holding a bowl. Baga Sitemu, early twentieth century. Large caryatid drums with small drum barrels were owned only by the women's organizations and beaten only by women. Wood, polychrome, rawhide. H. 113 cm. National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Gift of the Annie Laurie Aitken Charitable Trust, the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation, David C. Driskell, Evelyn A.J. Hall Charitable Trust, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Nooter, Barry

sit/7z kere to-/om to-su da-re yan di ma tshe debrouiller da-ran de la e Allah ma tshe e Allah o yan di ma tshe debrouiller da-ran de la yan di ma tshe

Other songs address problems of antisocial behavior, alienation from the community, dissension among the women, the irresponsibility of men, jealousy, disloyalty to the family, infertility, the suffering of orphans, the labor force, and so on. Among the northern Baga and Buluilits, the a-ndef, the large caryatid drum with the small drum barrel described above, were the exclusive property of a-Tekart/Keke. Officers of the society played them at a week-long initiation held once a year, and also at the funerals of members and the marriages of their daughters. At the beginning and end of the initiation, dances continued all day long, accompanied by these drums as well as by huge wooden slit gongs and other rhythm-makers. The a-ndef drum was high enough to be played standing, but the barrel, often carved separately from its base, could also be removed from the base and carried in procession. The form of the a-ndef, a female figure supporting a globular object on her head, recalls many situations in real Baga women's experience. Women are the bearers in Baga society, in every sense of the word. It is the women and children who carry the great clay water vessels on their heads from the well at the edge of the village to the storage vessels behind the home. Women bear large baskets filled with rice from the fields. In particular, one image of a woman bearing a vessel seems a likely model for the caryatid drum. In the traditional wedding ceremony practiced before mid-century, the bride (wu-fura) was expected to perform a dance, the do-fura, in which she carried on her head a basket called ta-fala te kä-leka, a spherical bowl atop a conical stem, rather like a wine glass. As she danced, which she did every day for a week, gifts of money from men and women onlookers were thrown into this basket, mingling with the rice grains tossed by the other women. The bride dancer, like the caryatid figure, wore a chain of metal bells at her waist, hung by cords crisscrossing her chest and back (fig. 102). She also wore strands of flat beads around her waist, and a band of seed rattles (batsha) around the ankles. All these ornaments are found commonly on the caryatid figure supporting the a-ndef. The event of marriage is the most celebrated time of a Baga woman's life, with an elaborate week-long celebration involving numerous masked dances in addition to her own, as well as ceremonial drinking, the giving of gifts and of a dowry, and her entry into a new clan alliance.

and Beverly Pierce, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Silver, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sonnenreich.(91-1-1).


100. Dance of a-Tekan with a-ndef drum, Baga Sitemu. Baga women maintain their own organization and celebrate special occasions with dances to the beat of the a-ndef. Seated beside the a-ndef is its owner, an officer of a-Tekan. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990.

99. Drum (a-ndef) supported by six faces on base resting on kneeling female figure holding standing child. Baga Sitemu, early twentieth century. The theme of the kneeling mother guiding the male child is the most common motif of the caryatid drums. Wood, polychrome, rawhide. H. 112 cm. The British Museum, Museum of Mankind, London (1942.Af, 1.1.a and -b). Acquired 1942.

Menda: The Authority of Southern Baga Women The ritual organization called Menda had its center at the Baga Kakissa island of Marara, just at the mouth of the Rio Pongo. Here initiates came from the Kakissa, Koba, and Kalum. Testimony differs as to whether both men and women were admitted to Menda. Among the Kalum and Kakissa, it appears to have been exclusively for women, but among the Koba, men's and women's initiations were held conjointly, and seem to have been thought of as one and the same. Masked dance for Menda ceremonies was performed by men. Still, the leadership of Menda was female. Membership was extended to those of middle age. The name "Menda," or variations thereof, may have a long history, and may tie together traditions of the southern Baga and the northern Temne, where the Mena or ra-Mena association includes some men but mostly women, and is under the control of women leaders. In both Baga and Temne dialects, the word men refers to medical practitioners, who are also practitioners of ritual, and who often gather around them groups of trainees who constitute a sort of ritual association. The word Menda may well derive from this word, as ra-Mena does. The term Menda


101 (above). Kneeling female figure holding a drum.

103. Drum (a-ndef) supported by kneeling female

Saga, early—mid twentieth century. The identity of the

figure holding child. Baga, early—mid twentieth

married woman with the a-ndef drum seems to be

century. The caryatid figure wears the crossed straps

suggested here. Wood, polychrome. H. 48 cm.

and waist crotals that are worn by a bride at her

Collection William Brill, New York.

wedding dance. Wood, polychrome, rawhide. H. 125.5 cm. Musee Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium (61.26.1).

102 (right). Dance of the bride (reenactment), Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. For one week, the bride dances for the village before the final ceremonies of transfer to her new husband; on her head she wears a goblet-shaped basket to hold gifts of money. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.



104. Mask. Baga, early twentieth century. Masks such

105. Mask representing twins (tsha-bari). Baga Koba,

as this may have served the women-led Menda ritual

late nineteenth century. Twin masks were used to

organization, but have long been abandoned. Wood,

some extent by the Menda organization, probably in

polychrome, nails. H. 53 cm. Collection Margaret H.

reference to female creative powers. Wood. H. 52.8

Demant, Huntington Woods, Michigan.

cm. Museum fiir Volkerkunde, Vienna (118.698). Acquired 1923, ex Oldenburg, 1901-13.


appears as early as 1594(Almada 1946:73) in the Portuguese literature, although it pertains there to younger, unmarried women, and probably to the Temne of Sierra

Leone. The last Menda initiation at Marara is said to have taken place in 1935. Menda initiation was for older men and women, but the male and female initiations were held in separate places. They could last for one year, from one dry season to the next. They learned a special language. In case of death, each member would bring a stone representing himself. Then they would build an enclosure and dance for a week. The stones were put into a clay pot with palm wine, and a man would go around and pour the wine and say, "This is what your child has brought for you." ... Coming-out ceremonies lasted ten days. They danced, and the initiated would come to greet the old men, and the old men would shower rice on them. These final dances were separate for men and for women, but the one would go to watch the dances of the other on alternating days.... Men used the masquerade of Simo Gine [Zigiren-Wondeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;discussed in a later chapter]. Women graduated first, and then the men. The high chiefs were all from Marara (elder, Muslim, Kotaya, Koba, 1987). At Siranka among the Baga Kakissa in 1987, we saw a demonstration of the Menda dance. Three women carried large round fishing nets, of a kind normally used by women working in the sea and in the inlets, and they swayed these nets in front of them, as if sifting the water for fish. On their heads they carried large metal pails or calabashes, such as they would bear to carry the catch, and with their right hands they scooped imaginary fish out of the nets into their pails with small calabashes. These three women led a procession, a crowd of women including the new initiates, who wore strands of large flat shell ornaments and bells behind the waist. Some of the older women would blow on antelope horn trumpets, accompanying the drummers, who were all male. Menda also used human figures, carved relatively naturalistically: large female figures bearing bowls on their heads, and other, smaller figures. Among the Baga Koba in 1987, after watching a performance of Simo Gine, the main female masquerade representing a married woman, we were honored with a performance described as an encore and involving small male and female figures. The figures were nestled under miniature white blankets inside an open calabash borne by the principal dancer, surrounded by the the rest of the women of the village. Although these figures were called "the children of Simo Gine," the female one wore a white cloth head-tie and the male a carved cap, identifying the images as adult. The performance of this little ensemble danced after the masquerade was called a "goodbye to Simo Gine." With each measure of a song sung by all the women,the dancer bearing the figures would bend forward and swing her arms forward, as if scooping something. The entire dance was enchanting in the tenderness expressed through both the movements and the tone of the music.

106. Mask. Baga, early twentieth century. Many face masks of widely varying forms were used in the past but have been largely forgotten; Baga consultants found photos such as this confusing, yet many claimed to remember something similar. Wood, polychrome. H. 59.4 cm. Yale University Art Gallery (1954.28.3).

The Seating, the Wisdom, and the Elders: A-Tern The Bagos have no king; each village is governed by the oldest of the inhabitants, who settles their disputes (Caillie 1830:166). In Sitemu society, it is the a-nde, "the seated ones" [singular wä-nde], who direct the village. The term a-nde designates the elders of great age in the community, the men who make up the superior age in traditional society, those who are seated.... The council of the a-nde do-ro-tshom ["those seated on stools"] directs the village. It makes all the decisions concerning traditional community life on all levels: social, economic, cultural. Its role is of capital importance, as every

107. Dancers in the Merida ceremonies, Baga Kakissa. Menda was a ritual organization led by women, of primarily female membership, open only to adults. Photo: Pere Soul, 1930. Courtesy Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Paris. CHAPTER VI â&#x20AC;˘THE CREATION OF STATUS



108. Kneeling female figure with bowl on head. Baga/Nalu, early twentieth century. Wood. H. 28 cm. The Saint Louis Art Museum,(19:66/E9347.19).

109. Kneeling female figure holding bowl on head. Probably Baga Koba, early twentieth century. Large female figures bearing bowls were among the ritual items of the women's Menda organization. Wood, polychrome. H. 35 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris (65-1-13). Acquired 1965; ex A. Maillard, Ons-en-Bray (Oise), c. 1928.


111. Female figure bearing a wine vessel on her head, Baga Kalum, Kaporo Village. The father holds the female figure that probably would have been used in the ritual of the women's Merida organization. Photo: Carl Kjermeier, 1932.

110 (below). Ceramic vessel for rice (a-pampe). Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village, early twentieth century. The daily life of many Baga includes living with immense pottery like this piece, used for containing the family's supply of dry, uncooked rice. Clay, black pigment. H. 68 cm. Collection Frederick Lamp, Baltimore.

112. Standing female figure holding breasts. Baga /Nalu, early twentieth century. Small figures resembling adults were used in Menda dance and called the "children of Zigiren-Wonde," the representation of a young married woman. Wood, black pigment. H. 29.2 cm. National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., bequest of Eliot Elisofon (73-7-100).



113a—b. Standing male and female figures. Baga, late nineteenth century. The style of these figures suggests southern Baga and an affinity with their Temne relatives farther south. Wood. H. 60 cm.(female). Female: Yale University Art Gallery, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James M. Osborn for the Linton Collection of African Art (1954.28.31). Acquired 1954. Male: Owner unknown.

114. Dance of "the children of Simo Gine" (Zigiren-Wonde). Baga Koba. Here small male and female figures are tucked into blankets in a calabash carried in the dance called "Goodbye to Simo Gine." Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.



115. The veranda of a house with a stool supported by figures, Baga Sitemu, K'fen Village. The sketch, made in situ, probably illustrates the house of an elder serving as a kä-16-kä-pon (sacred house). Drawing by Y. Pranishnikoff(Coffinieres de Nordeck 1886).

disre (or kor), extended family, supports the presence of one of their members inside the council of a-nde. On account of their wisdom, the elders are in correspondence with the world of the ancestors. It is for this reason that they are most venerated in the traditional Baga society. To them are due the respect, the obedience, and the obligation of the other age grades (Blez Bangoura 1974:20-21). The power structure of the Baga bears no resemblance to that of their close ethnic relatives the Temne, who for centuries have had centralized petty monarchies, with a chain of command consisting of elder councillors, town chiefs, section chiefs, and village chiefs. Still, the Temne are linked to the Baga structure of gerontocracy by one key insigne: the carved stool. The full title of the Baga ruling elder is "wä-ndedo-roishom," "he who is seated on a stool." The supreme symbol of the elder's authority to enter the assembly of elder councillors is his stool, often carved with a support in the form of human figures. The distinction between a populace that sits on the ground and a ruling rank that sits on an ornamented stool has a long history, and likely predates the coming of the Europeans. The long existence of such stools among other groups in West Africa, notably the Dogon and Akan,suggests an indigenous tradition. In 1594, Almada noted the use of such stools in the court ceremony of the newly crowned Temne (Sapi) king: "As for the Solategis, who are the nobles, when the king gives the title and rank to those of merit, it is in this form: they go to the funco [court], where they are judged, where each is seated on a carved wooden stool which serves as a chair" (1946:72). Chiefs' stools are not documented among the Temne today, but then the regalia of Temne chiefs has not been well investigated. But the stool for elders is well-known among their close relatives the Baga, and has been collected by museums and private collectors throughout Europe and America. The very earliest collection known is that of a stool now in the Musee de l'Homme in Paris (fig. 116). Acquired by the eighteenth century, it was part of the former "cabinet" of the king of France, and was entered at that time into the inventory of the Bibliotheque Nationale. This stool is supported by a single standing female figure, who braces each side of the seat with her upraised arms. To the Baga, the sight of these carved stools would have inspired wonder and awe. Not only are they magnificently carved, with their voluptuous male and female figures, but the appeal of the representations goes beyond the aesthetic. Figures of the sacred character D'mba supporting the circular seat would invoke images of CHAPTER VI • THE CREATION OF STATUS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


righteousness and beauty, and to see the figures would be a special privilege, as the D'mba figures separately carved and used on clan shrines would normally have been seen only by the ritually sanctified. Other figures of the initiated woman would have called to mind the many attributes of ideal womanhood fostered in initiation and bearing symbolic significance. A horse supporting the seat would have mythic proportions. Furthermore, one needs to appreciate the perspective of the nonelder, who normally sits on the bare ground, not on a stool. For the young men and women introduced into adult knowledge through the common initiation, the sight of the elders seated on their wonderful stools must have been all the more moving: According to the custom ... of the initiates of kä-Bere-Tshol in our time... there I was made to lie down flat on the ground with my head against the ground....That lasted for eight days during which we could not lift our heads. The eighth day we were permitted to raise our heads. And thus we were conducted to an area outside the village where all the aged savants were seated [on stools] in a circle (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992).

116. Stool with seat supported by a female figure. Probably Baga, probably eighteenth century. This may be the earliest registered object of Baga art in a museum collection. Wood. H. 47 cm. Musee de l'Homme,Paris (78.49.1). Earlier in the collection of the Bibliothique Nationale, former Collection of the King of France; inventoried in the eighteenth century.

Generational Tension and the Assertion of Legitimate Authority The coming-out ceremonies of male initiation were exquisitely moving, as we witnessed in several villages, as reconstructions of the dance, in 1987. The initiation held enormous social importance, as it served the purpose of creating responsible adults and it immersed young men in the procedures and meanings of significant ritual dating back centuries, if not millennia. Baga men do not readily speak of the initiation, as they remember it as a precarious time, in which secrecy played a critical part. Those middle-aged men who can recall the experience describe it not so much with relish as with respect. Despite the initiation ritual's beauty and dignity, it has a disturbing aspect, repeated over and over in the many testimonies we received from the men who experienced it before its demise: the beatings endured by the young men. Beating can appear in male initiations all over the world, and it occurred with some frequency in the initiation I studied among the Temne in 1976-80. But it was not a central feature there, nor was it ever described as being so. Among the Baga, on the other hand, it reached extraordinary heights. Initiates were beaten so severely that they often sustained welts on their backs for life. The testimony of our consultants is confirmed in a 1930 issue of the official journal of Les Peres du Saint-Esprit of Guinea (Voix, V, 10, 1930:6): "I have often noticed, on the backs of the Baga, large, multiple welts which are reminders to the victim of the incredible nightly beatings in the sacred forest." When we asked a consultant to discuss the ka-kantsh initiation, the account would almost inevitably focus on the beating. If we asked the simple question "What happens in initiation," or "Tell us about the initiation," the answer would be a simple "They beat the young men." "What was the purpose of the initiation?" "It was for beating the youths." Obviously we can discern other purposes, but it is extremely telling that this feature stands out so significantly in the memory of the elders today. Why was beating so important? Elders often said that it was to make the young men strong. But the young men were already strong. Beating did not make them strong; if anything, it damaged them physically. Today, fifty years after initiation ended, young Baga men are incredibly strong, without having endured beating. Furthermore, many of these initiates were already adults by the time of ka-kantsh, having already gone through decades of the strict discipline for which Baga upbringing was known. Were they not already formed? An answer to these questions may be suggested by the glee with which the aged consultants recalled the events to our research team. It was always the beating that the elders would recount with the most animation, and they described it as an incomparable pleasure, especially at the event of ka-gbi5p-a-Mantsho, the running of the gauntlet to reach a-Mantsho-fio-Pon. Elders apparently would compete to see


who could beat the young men most viciously, and particular cruelties were remembered with pride. The beating, I would suggest, was not for the benefit of the young men; it was for the benefit of the elders. The beating served the purpose of the old men's pleasure. But it went beyond pleasure to social importance. Throughout this study of Baga art and ritual, we shall see over and over again an institutionalized tension between elder and younger men, acted out often in open defiance and confrontation. While young men often seize power by stealing and appropriating the elders' secrets and sacred forms, elders confront youths with clear and sometimes ruthless symbols of power and authority. The vivid usurpation of power by the young is all the more poignant and understandable in the context of the extreme and even unreasonable exercise of power by the aged. To the extent that it is unreasonable, it is a ritual exercise. A more tender aspect of power is certainly not absent in Baga society; it is present, for example, in the feminine principle expressed by the spirit a-Bol. Both a-Bol and a-Mantsho-rio-Pon represent Baga people of both genders, and their spiritual unity suggests the range of alienation and conjunction that has been possible between the generations. Throughout this study of the Baga, we shall encounter the pervasive importance of the age grade in the renewal, destruction, appropriation, and invention of Baga artistic traditions. Generational conflict is clearly played out in Baga rites of passage, and it appears vividly in the watersheds of crisis that have marked Baga history. We have seen the role of tension between "younger brother" and "older brother" in the establishment of Baga society, as the Baga retell it, after their occupation of the coast. We have seen how children and young people defy adult authority while yet appropriating its conventions through mimicry and reinvention, and how this conflict is institutionalized through theoretical acceptance mixed with de facto rejection. We have seen how much of the adult interaction with the youth in ritual, such as initiations, has to do with the constant, and often brutal, assertion of authority, including physical confrontation, for the purpose, not of punishment for wrongs, but of pure confrontation itself. We shall also see, farther on, how the youth have turned this tradition to the advantage of change, reinventing Baga culture at each watershed right to the present time.

117. Seni Sama Bangoura, clan elder of Dafan clan, Kamala quartier, and head of the masculine moiety of Tolkotsh Village. In the past, the authority of the council of clan elders was absolute. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

118. Stool with seat supported by four seated figures (do-tshom). Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Buluiiits, early twentieth century. The magnificently appointed stool validated the right of the ruling elder of each clan,"he who is seated on a stool," and provided sharp contrast with the general seating on the ground for nonelders. Wood. D.60 cm. Private collection, Minneapolis. CHAPTER VI â&#x20AC;˘ THE CREATION OF STATUS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


• S.




119. Dance of Banda, Saga Mandori. The dancer bearing this enormously heavy headdress accomplishes astonishingly athletic movements, including spinning and twirling the headdress above his head. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

The subject of spiritual transformation is a constant thread throughout the study of Saga art and culture. The Baga see themselves as a transformed people, and this transformation permeates their identity today. It is fundamentally expressed by the oral tradition on the migration from the Fouta Djallon—the evolution of the Baga from a mountain people to a lowland people. We have seen how, in this transition, the acceptance and nonacceptance of transformation are the key criteria in the construction of social status: those who accepted the inevitability of change were endowed with highest status by virtue of their earliest arrival at the location of a new Baga world. Those who were reluctant to accept change, those who fought it, those who were "crazy" enough (in the eyes of the Baga Sitemu) to try to maintain Baga society as it had been, staying in the Fouta to fight the Muslims, eventually arrived on the same stage, only to find that their efforts had been in vain and their place in Baga society had been reduced to second and third class. The word "a-tshol," "medicine," appears ubiquitously in this book. The central initiation for young men and women is ka-bere-Tshol, "entering the medicine." The patron spirit of this initiation, as well as of the clan groups throughout Sagaland, is a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol,"The Master of Medicine," the great Serpent who symbolizes the cycle of life—the shedding of past lives and the reentering of this world. The beaked shrine figure and dance headdress representing the creative power of the almighty God, and mankind's ability to appropriate this power in agriculture and in human development, bears the name a-Tshol. A-Tshol's companion is A-Bil-fia-Tshol, who has something to do with the creative role of water flow and reproductive force. Another headdress, the D'mba-da-Tshol (to be investigated farther on), represents an antiaesthetic power of transformation, in which the dialectic between wisdom and age, on the one hand, and youth and indiscretion, on the other, provides the basis of an agent of change. In this chapter, accepting the premise of Baga resettlement in the coastal lowlands, we shall examine two headdresses that embody the principles of transformation. These headdresses suggest some former association with the Manding-related cultures of the East, yet incorporate the forms of the coast. This dual character is consistent with the role of each headdress as a-tshol in its full sense—the use of the natural environment to create concentrations of power and media of transfiguration. The headdresses are Banda, the composite human beast, and Tonkstingba, the horned sea mammal. CHAPTER VII • SPIRITS OF THE COMPOSITE BEAST COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


120. Headdress (Tonicongba/Tabalcan). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Lan.cluma/Nalu, late nineteenth century. This type of helmet was used among the northern Baga and the Nalu and Landuma. Wood, metal. L. 97.3 cm. Mus6e Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium (65.45.1).

Tonki5ngba, the Message Bearer from the Sea The Tonkongba headdress can be seen as a three-part form, including a domeshaped helmet in the center, a long, usually triangular snout protruding from the front, and, at the rear, a pair of broad flat horns, usually connected at their tips (fig. 120). The top of the helmet dome is usually carved in patterns, including patterns of braiding, and the upper front sometimes bears a slight indication of eyes, if only in the form of brass tacks. The sides of the snout are usually patterned with incised lines, and sometimes with pierced decoration that reveals its hollow underside. The headdress ranges from 40 to 120 centimeters in length. Miniature examples also exist, such as that in the Museu de Etnologia, Lisbon, at a tiny 23 centimeters. The earliest collection date was c. 1900, when a Dr. Maclaud acquired a helmet in the Landuma area for the Musee de l'Homme,Paris, thus initiating an attribution of these objects to the Landuma that has been repeated indiscriminately. Other 138 CHAPTER VII â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF THE COMPOSITE BEAST COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

122. Headdress (Tonkongba/Tabakan). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Landuma, early twentieth century. Many Baga works have been attributed erroneously on the basis of a single, early source; this is the case with the Tonkongba, which has always been attributed only to the Landuma. Wood. L. 62.2cm Collection Mark Seidenfeld, New York.

123. Headdress. Malinke. Many Baga art forms share characteristics with Malinke art forms, as in the dome helmet and rectangular snout in this and the Baga Tonkongba headdress. Wood. L. 51 cm. Private collection.

121 (left). Headdress (Tonkongba/Tabakin). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Landuma, early twentieth century. The Mandori call this headdress "The Medicine That Lies on Its Stomach," indicating an animal without legs that is responsible for spiritual transformation. Wood, metal, tacks. L. 96 cm. Collection M. 8c Mme. Seroussi, Paris.



124. Comb with miniature Tonki3ngba mask. Baga/Landuma, early twentieth century. Combs may be decorated with a number of motifs, but generally the theme of transformation (in this case, from disorder to order) seems to hold. Wood. H. 29.9 cm. Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley(B 1191).

125. Blacksmith's-bellows part. Baga/Malinke, early

examples can be safely attributed to the Bulufiits (Riviere 1975:168: collected in the field by M. and J. Nicaud), and to the Baga Sitemu (photographs taken by the Nicauds in c. 1956 at the Sitemu village of Marefi show a Tonkongba headdress among the loot confiscated by the Muslim missionary Asekou Sayon; this headdress was subsequently exported by the Nicauds)(fig. 216, center bottom). The name of the headdress given by most Baga Sitemu consultants is "Tonko," or "Tonkongba"(probably the name "Tonko" with the common Baga nasalization of a final vowel and the often-borrowed Manding superlative ha), although testimony on this is inconsistent. The name given in Portuguese sources is usually "Numbe," but the literature clearly indicates that this is simply a version of the term "Namba" (also Noemba/Nimba/Numba), which is used by the Susu, and by Susu speakers among the Baga cultural group, to designate a great number of headdresses of this latter group. Baga consultants were inconsistent in their identification of the headdress by name, and often pointedly disputed the name. This is probably due to the headdress's very secret use in a very restricted context. Other preferred names were: Kafikabala (Mandori), a-Tshol-fia-Bapse (Mandoriâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;"The Medicine That Lies on Its Stomach"), and Tabakan (Landuma). The style of Tonkongba, especially of those examples bearing a rectangular snout, closely resembles a poorly documented form of headdress found among the Malinke (fig. 123). This too is a domed helmet with a long snout in front and horns behind, although the horns in this case are long and thin, like those of an antelope. Above the dome is a high crest of coiffure, and flanking it are flat forms sweeping to the rear, and resembling ears, or perhaps another kind of horn. To the front are two projections resembling those found on some of the larger styles of Tonkongba (fig. 120). The linear designs covering the surface of the Malinke headdress are also very similar to those decorating the Tonkongba. One could also cite other masks and headdresses of Sahelian groups, for example the antelope mask of the Bobo, with its dome-shaped head, two horns in a circle, and snout in the form of a long rectangular tube. In fact a recent auction in London (Sotheby's, June 29, 1987, Lot 150) listed a Tonkongba as "Mossi," presumably on the basis of a previous attribution given by the British Museum. Thus the Tonkongba headdress seems to have formal ties with sculpture of the inland peoples of the Mande sphere of cultural influence, suggesting an earlier contact not in evidence for 500 years of the historical period. What we know, or don't know, about Tonkiingba's function is complicated by a number of factors, including the extreme secrecy enveloping the sculpture and the probability that it was used in different ways by different groups. Clearly it served both as a shrine figure and as a dance headdress, much in the manner of the a-Tshol figure. In fact Tonkongba and a-Tshol often served together on the same shrine altar, as I observed in contemporary settings among the Sitemu. Tonkongba is also linked to a-Tshol through its representation on the carved blacksmith's-bellows part sometimes used as the base for dual a-Tshol figures (figs. 61 and 125). The Lisbon collector Victor Bandeira recorded some information in the 1960s about the headdress that he received from Tomaz Camara, the chief of Cacine District in Guinea Bissau, Nalu territory: The Numbe [sic] masks guard the house and combat the bad fetishes. "Whoever uses this mask has great power, and can go through fire." When I asked him if he had ever seen someone passing through fire, he replied "Yes," but that today "there are no longer people with the power to do this.... Most of the masks, which are normally guarded in a special house near the village, also protect this village" (Archives, Museu de Etnologia, Lisbon).

twentieth century. There are several examples of this bellows part carved with either the Baga Tonkongba head or the Malinke helmet head. Normally the Saga do not blacksmith. Wood. L. 25.5 cm. Collection Jeremiah and Susanne Fogelson, Eugene.

In 1985 I saw the Tonkongba headdress in use in a shrine constructed by a Baga Sitemu ritual practitioner living in Boke. He had inherited the shrine and its practice from his father, but when I saw it he was presenting it quasi-publicly, by special invitation, at the International Festival of Women in the Jardin du 2 Octobre in


Conakryâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a curious context indeed. What I think such contexts mean for Guineans will become clearer in the discussion of the postcolonial period in chapter XI, but suffice it to say here that when independence came, it became a matter of national policy to require ritual practitioners to "demystify" their practices by making their secrets available to the public. The ensuing government investigations, at every level

down to the most remote villages, virtually ended the use of shrines with ritual sculpture. A rare few practitioners continued in secret, however, and apparently a handful managed to continue some sort of ritual maintenance by the expedient of obeying the national policy of divulgence. The shrine altar or an-gbip that I saw in Conakry was a small shelter with mud-built walls on three sides, about sixty centimeters high. The top of the shelter formed a shelf made of sticks aligned side by side. Below the shelf the shelter's open front was hung with a veil of palm fronds, hiding the interior. But the contents had been arrayed in front of the altar. They included, from left to right: 1. A small pot for palm wine. 2. A small round mat holding two white eggs and three black stones. 3. The Tonkongba headdress, with two cow horns, wrapped in red and white cloth, leaning point outward against the tip of the snout; and with a tube wrapped in string, encrusted, and decorated with cowrie shells (constituting an instrument called tatohanya, considered a "telephone"). 4. Above the Tonkongba, draped on the altar: a bundle tied in the center of a long piece of red cloth, constituting an instrument called tafo, used to protect the owner against sorcerers. 5. Another round mat holding a bottle of medicine (a-tshol), kola nuts, a duiker horn, and a bowl of rice flour.

As mentioned in a previous chapter, Tonkongba had a relationship to a-Tshol, the protector of the male initiates: At ka-kintsh, it was in the a-fan [sacred grove] to protect the boys. All Baga villages had the mask. It was kept on an altar made of sticks. Medicine was under the altar. It would fight malice. It spoke in tsa-Baka [the Baga language]. One could grab the mask and throw it down, and it would cry.... One could take it and throw it into the sea, and when one returned, one would find it back at the same place.... Tonko was the great to-lom [sacred thing] of the initiates, and their protector. To see it lying at the center of the sacred grove, one would consider it to be a simple piece of wood, while this thing truly incarnated something special. Whoever went into the sacred grove with the intention to do ill, Tonko was there to denounce him with the sound of a sharp cry. As soon as the elders of the village heard his cry, they would get up and go to the sacred grove, because they knew that something wrong was going on there. Tonko could kill if someone went to do harm to an initiate in the sacred grove by sorcery (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1986). In 1986, having assumed that no ritual use of the very sacred art forms had survived independence, I was astonished to find in a Baga Sitemu village a working shrine containing not only the Tonkongba but also two a-Tshol figures, as I have CHAPTER VII â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF THE COMPOSITE BEAST



described in a previous chapter. The placement of the Tonkongba in this shrine's center, surrounded by the other objects, was identical to that in the festival in Conakry. The ritual practitioner in the village, however, was extremely wary, and consented to show us only the two a-Tshol figures. He would not let us see the Tonkongba, though we glimpsed it briefly in the shrine's dim interior as he withdrew the a-Tshol figures for our inspection. Neither would he discuss how the Tonkongba functioned in the shrine, except to say that it was used, like the a-Tshol, in the healing process. The role of Tonkongba in masquerade was described to us in the most singular way. Consultants always emphasized the omniscient character of Tonkongba: Sometimes the mask can be taken out and danced.... But not just any time. You can't see the person wearing it—the man disappears.... The costume is only of raffia—a lot of raffia. The masked dance is frightful, and people run away. The mask can rise up by itself (after the children have looked inside and see that there is no person inside), it can dance and speak. It plays the role of a policeman (owner of shrine, a Sitemu village, 1992). It appeared on any special occasion when a sacrifice was involved, for example at a funeral. It danced at sunrise. It was used to close a dance session when other masks had danced (elder, Muslim, Dobali, Mandori, 1987). 126. Ernest Hiolle, Anion Seated upon the Dolphin, 1870. French. The Baga often compare the Tonkongba

When Tonkongba came out, the people would hang tobacco leaves and fowl on its costume [as tribute] (elder, Muslim, Katongoro, Sitemu, 1986).

to the dolphin, which, in both Baga and European lore, figures in tales in which it helps human beings. Marble. Photo: Frederick Lamp. Courtesy the Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Tonkongba came out to dance for two to three days during ka-kantsh [male initiation], wearing a raffia costume. He would shuffle along to a count of three, shaking the shoulders to the left for three counts, then right for three counts, etc. He spoke normal Baga (elder, Muslim, Kaklentsh, Sitemu, 1986). When you do something in its absence, it can reveal that. For example, when you have been fighting at some distant place, and you come back to meet this mask, it will tell you what you have been doing (elder, Christian, Conakry, Sitemu, 1985). The chronicler, Tonkongba, knew the history of all the Baga villages. It moved very slowly—but no feet were seen, only the raffia costume. It would take three days to walk from Kamsar to Kawass. If you met it on the road, it would stop you and ask about your family. If you offended it, it would tell you the entire [negative] history of your family. ... It could foresee an oncoming war, and would inform the village. Then the people would go out and collect bees in a bag, and when the enemy came they would release them (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1986).

127 (opposite). Headdress (Tonkongba/Tabakan). Baga Sitemu/Mandori/Landuma, early twentieth century. The Tifmkongba can be as large as 120 cm. or smaller than this one, even miniaturized. Wood, metal. L. 43 cm. Collection Beatrice Riese, New York.

Tonkongba was the instrument that gave the news, most of it bad. Tonkongba knew about everything, even events taking place at great distances. It is significant that, with the headdress itself defunct since Islamization in the 1950s, the Baga today use the word tonkongba to mean "the radio." As the "Agent of Transformation [a-Tshol] That Lies on Its Stomach," the Tonkongba headdress is revealed to be a living creature without legs. As always with Baga creations, it is pointless to assign the sculpture a direct coidentity with a specific animal, or animals; Tonkongba is a living creature invented by the Baga, even if its physical conception derives from natural form. Even the eldest Baga of today were not around to witness Tonkongba's creation, and cannot be expected to know the original creators' intentions. As Baga consultants so often say,"How can we know? We weren't there. We only found this thing here, given to us by our ancestors." Nevertheless, the Baga of today do have an opinion on what Tonkongba resembles. Consultants described it as a sea creature with a wide flat tail and a head like a cow. It eats grass, and it can capsize a boat. When pressed to be more





specific, several consultants identified Tonkongba with the narwhal. This presents a problem, since the narwhal is a small whale found only in the Arcticâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;far from West Africa. With its long, straight, spiral-grooved single tusk, however, the narwhal has taken on a mythical character, like the unicorn in medieval lore. As such, its identification with Tonkongba is consistent with the conception of an antiquity lost in mythic obscurity. Drawing more closely from the Raga environment, one can see a resemblance between the Tonkongba and the dolphin, which does exist in abundance in the Baga area. The dolphin has a bulbous body, a long snout, and a broad flat tail. When I asked a few consultants if this was what they meant, they agreed that it was plausible, but it was a topic that we, most unfortunately, had no opportunity to pursue. The dolphin is especially interesting as a possible identity because it figures symbolically in many cultures as an ally of mankind, rescuing people and gods in trouble, as in the Greek myths of Anion (fig. 126), Enalus, kadius, Melicertes, Ino, Phalanthos, and Theseus. In classical literature, both Poseidon and Apollo could be identified with the dolphin, human beings could transform into dolphins, and dolphins could receive a proper burial, suggesting ancestral status (Preston 1983). At the Baga Sitemu village of K'fen, dolphins are considered sacred. It is said not that men go to sea to fish, but that dolphins bring fish to shore on their backs and the fish leap ashore. Their account seems only a slightly fanciful elaboration upon the scientifically documented relationship between the presence of dolphins and the presence of catch (a point well publicized by opponents of the fishing industry's slaughter of dolphins in the West). Banda, the Composite Human Beast The character Banda, also called Kumbaruba by some Baga groups, has a long, horizontal headdress composed of the jaw of a crocodile, the face of a human being (with Baga scarification marks and a woman's elaborately braided coiffure), the horns of an antelope, the body of a serpent, and the tail of a chameleon. This huge headdress ranges from c. 120 to over 200 centimeters long. Banda used to be found all along the coast, from the Baga Kalum in the south (Kjersmeier 1932:200), through the Koba, Kakissa, Sitemu, and Mandori, through the Bulunits and Landuma,to the Nalu in the north. It is among the Nalu that it has been best noted in the literature, beginning with its earliest collection, by the Sociedade de Geographia, Lisbon, before 1890; the earliest photograph (Pereira 1914); and the earliest mention of its name (as Benda)(Meo 1919:364). Whether the Baga and Nalu identify Banda with origins in the Fouta Djallon is hard to determine. The former supreme sacredness of the headdress suggests that it falls into a category with a-Mantsho-lio-Pon, a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol, a-Tshol, and other forms traced to the Fouta. The overall construction, that of a horizontal beast headdress, recalls quite a few headdresses found farther east, among the Mande and Mande-influenced peoples. One thinks of the Malinke/Bamana Komo mask, the Dogon crocodile mask, the various Senufo snouted masks (fig. 130), and the Guro Zamble headdress. Specific elements of the headdress suggest, however, that the mountains are not the source, although a more easterly, inland, riverine area could be. If the jaw does in fact replicate the jaw of a crocodile, as seems likely, this would suggest sources along the coast, with its swamps, inlets from the sea, brackish pools, and salt water, which all accommodate the estuarine crocodile (Crocodilus porosus). The crocodile has been recorded on the upper Niger, but that is far from the Fouta Djallon. If the dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis) is present in the Fouta, it is unknown to Fulbe friends I have consulted, and the high and rocky course of the Fouta's streams would seem hostile to the incursion of such large reptiles. Indeed, in all my time spent living inland, even at a low altitude, in Sierra Leone, I never heard of the


existence of crocodiles, although they were plentiful on the coast. I would conclude that the crocodile form can only suggest a lowland origin. The Events of Masquerade Although today the Banda headdress is danced only for entertainment, documentation suggests that it was originally extremely sacred in character. Before the twentieth century Banda seems to have represented a high and powerful spiritual being, and appeared only to privileged society elders(Voix V, 7, 1930:13; Bowald 1939:126, 128; Appia 1943a:158, 160). It reportedly figured in ritual designed to protect against crocodile attacks, human malevolence, and other dangers, especially at the time of male initiation to mark the attainment of adolescence, adulthood, and elder status. It also appeared on such events as marriage, harvest celebrations and new planting ritual, and the appearance of the new moon, all auspicious occasions. Consultants among the Baga Mandori stated categorically that it was only for "happy occasionsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;not for funerals." On the eve of the circumcision, the Banda was danced during the night, until morning, and in the morning, the crowd dispersed (elder, Muslim, Kanonke, Nalu, 1992). In keeping with the principle of balance, Banda dances alternately with another masked figure, Pende-Pende (fig. 132). This figure, costumed in brightly colored cloth and raffia, represents on the one hand the buffoon, and on the other a punisher, as opposed to the spiritually noble and benevolent Banda: [Pende-Pende] goes out the day of the circumcision and chases the uncircumcised boys, called "the two-horned ones" by my consultant. He teases the housewives.... He comes and sits down to the cooked rice, which then no one dares to eat because it must be reserved for him. His role consists, among others, of amusing the initiates and the people of the village at the time of the initiation (Appia 1943a:160). A single village might have had two or three Banda headdresses, which could appear together. Among the Baga Mandori,consultants spoke of Banda in the context of a considerable number of masquerades having to do with the initiation of young men: Kumbaruba was originally very sacred. It was associated with the circumcision initiation. It had sacred meaning that only the initiates understood. It danced during their initiation; it was danced in the village by the men already initiated. Women were allowed to see it, but not small, uninitiated boys. There were two masks that appeared together: the "father" and the "son"â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the large one and the small one. The father was the dancer, while the son was the guardian and did not dance, but simply watched the father. There was to-Born (the small one) and Du [Dudu] and Kumbaruba and Pende-Pende ... that were all for the initiation and all appeared together. Pende-Pende was the watchman and policeman who watched the girls during the dance to make sure they didn't run off with the boys. Kumbaruba was the father, and he was the spokesman for all the other masks (elder, Muslim, Dobali, Mandori, 1987). Today, Banda has disappeared altogether from the southern Saga region, and it is seldom seen in the north except in very remote Baga and Nalu villages. It may appear on any special occasion, such as the visit of a dignitary, a wedding, New Year's Day, or any national public holiday, and its dance is regarded simply as general entertainment. The Performance Never before now, as far as I know, has a ritual Banda dance been documented in CHAPTER VII â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF THE COMPOSITE BEAST COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


129(opposite). Mask (Banda/Kumbaruba). Baga/Nalu, early twentieth century. The Banda masquerade is said to have been extremely sacred and exclusive before the twentieth century, but throughout this century it has also been performed for general public celebration. Wood, polychrome, metal, hide, cloth. L. 150 cm. Collection Marc and Denyse Ginzberg, Rye. Collected by Jacqueline and Maurice Nicaud,Paris, c. 1956.

situ in a photograph. Several ostensible field photographs have appeared, but all have been staged by Europeans for the benefit of the photographer (obvious by the absence of participants). We had the opportunity to see the dance of Banda at a village of the Baga Mandori, where it was performed to celebrate our research team's arrival in this quite inaccessible place—the first appearance of a European (American) in the village in twenty-eight years, since the visit of the German filmmaker Horst Luz in 1959. The dancer, always a young man, carries the wooden headdress on top of his head. Attached to the headdress's underside is a large cape of bleached raffia, which falls to the dancer's knees. It is this raffia that covers the dancer's face. On top of that is spread a shorter cloth cape around the back of the costume. Completing the ensemble, generally, are loose trousers, ruffles of bleached raffia at the ankles, and sometimes cloth tassels attached to the ends of the headdress's wooden horns. The performance takes place in a circular arena formed by the crowd. As drummers play a rhythm on giant wooden slit gongs, people from the crowd enter the circle to show their dancing ability. Heightening the momentum,the guardians of Banda enter to display their own dancing. Finally Banda enters the arena, with a few tentative steps. The repertoire of movements, specially choreographed for Banda, today remains quite the same as that described in the first half of the twentieth century by a Susu schoolboy and by a German-Swiss merchant visiting the Baga Sitemu village of Awopdarari (called Yenguissa by the Susu): A man who has undergone a metamorphosis into a spirit, bearing the royal crocodile on his head, stands in a circle of spectators. At the sight of the monster "Banda" the women sing and clap their hands. A young girl massages his feet.... At the order of the chief, he moves into the center of the circle, where he kneels to salute those in attendance. Then he stamps his feet in place, he makes incredible leaps, and focuses upon the women,opening his enormous jaw. A great silence settles upon the scene. The monster, Banda, goes into contortions, lets loose a cry of sadness and says, shouting, "There will soon be an epidemic of `tahoudji'[unidentified]." In order to prevent it, the women would go to take a piece of firewood from their homes and place it east of the village. As night falls, the men alone accompany the spirit, singing, to the nearby forest, where they remove the costume (Ibrahima SyIla, eleven-year-old schoolboy, Susu, at the Buluriits village of Monchon, as reported in Appia 1943a:159-60).

128. Mask (Banda/Kumbaruba). Baga Kalum, Kaporo Village, early nineteenth century. Although collectors commonly associate the Banda only with the Nalu, this headdress was also used by the Baga,from the northern to the southern. Wood, polychrome. L. 100 cm.(missing horns). Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen (G.8070). Collected by Carl Kjersmeier, 1932; in the Kaporo family "for several generations."

In the evening there is a celebration. ...In the village plaza lies a hollowed tree trunk which is closed on both ends. In use, different deep tones are emitted from the three long, straight slits of different length. That is the great bush drum [actually a slit gong]. Youths of the village manipulate it, working it with the ball of the left hand and with a wooden stick in the right. Right and left of it stand the drummer and the balafone player [see fig. 132].... Now comes the high point of the celebration—masked forms step forward with belted grass skirts—like the kilt of the Scottish highlanders—the head covered with the fantastical masks of their fetishes.... Suddenly one of the masked dancers breaks through the circle of spectators. The others wait hidden in the background, as troops lining up. Screaming, the women of the village give it space. As if possessed, the "Jelibas" [musicians] hammer away at their instruments.... With the heavy mask, he executes all possible kinds of capers. Suddenly he crouches down on the ground, and in the next blink of an eye, he leaps up high like a "springing devil" in the jack-in-the-box, twisting his arms to twirl the mask around over his head. Now with not a trace of an earlier stilted way of walking, the previous leaden stiff-leggedness of the dancer gives way to abandon. Although everyone knows well enough who is hidden under the mask, it is considered good taste not to speak of it.


130. Mask (Kponyugu). Senufo, late nineteenth century. The Manding impact has been felt throughout the western half of West Africa, with affinities between widely dispersed sculptural traditions from the Baga Banda to the Senufo Kponyugu. Wood. L. 99.7 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art, purchased as the gift of Janet Wurrzburger(BMA 1966.17).

The children and women scream loudly when the spirit dancer comes close to them. If he is tired, another steps in, taking his place. Slowly, the ranks of the spectators thin, and gradually the balafone and the bush drum die out. As suddenly as the infernal racket began, it has again disappeared (Bowald 1939:123-28).

131 (opposite page). Mask (Banda/Kumbaduba). Nalu/Baga, late nineteenthâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;early twentieth century. Photographed at the Nalu village of Koukouba, Guinea, by Michel Huet(Huet et al. 1954:132-34, 1978:28-30), the mask may not have originated there, as the photographer's notes indicate that he often carried masks purchased from art dealers to villages to have them danced. Wood, polychrome. L. 159 cm. Museum Rietberg, Zurich (RAF 12).

Considering the massive wooden headdress's formidable weight, the dance is astonishingly vigorous. One movement is an eye-dazzling rapid shuffling of the feet while the dancer remains in place, almost hidden in a choking cloud of dust kicked up from the sandy plaza. As he rests occasionally, women dance out into the circle and back, and two men, attendants of Banda, execute the same vigorous steps as he. The masked dancer takes on the roles of various animals. Each time he is about to begin his dance, he stands in place and kicks out his left foot, then his right, and then scrapes each foot backward in turn, resembling a bull, in rhythmic time to the beat. Like a predatory bird fishing, he takes high steps, then lunges the headdress downward at an angle; crouching low, he puts his snout to the ground, or shakes the headdress from side to side, lowers himself to the ground, shudders and makes pecking motions toward the ground, then points the headdress high in the air, like the bird swallowing its fish. As a bird in flight, he circles around the space, tilting the headdress toward the spectators and flinging out the raffia with his hands, prancing with bent knees. Other roles imitate a serpent undulating or a fish swimming. In the greatest spectacle of all, the dancer goes into a dizzying weightless spin, holding the headdress aloft. He twirls the headdress in a series of figure eights, plunges to the ground, and immediately sets the headdress back on his head, without missing a beat. The ecstatic crowd rushes forward to congratulate him. The dance





132. Dance of Pende-Pende with slit gongs, Baga Mandori. Pende-Pende dances as an absurd counterpoint to the noble and benevolent Banda. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

133. Performance of a family of Banda, Pende-Pende, and other maskers at the Jardin d'Acclimatation, Paris, in 1912. The Banda had already come into common use for entertainment when this photograph was taken, but the appearance of a family of masks corresponds precisely to the testimony of Baga Mandori consultants today. Photo: courtesy Roger-Viollet, Paris.

134 (opposite page). Dance of Banda, Baga Mandori. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.





135. Comb with miniature Banda/Kumbaruba mask. Baga/Nalu, early twentieth century. Banda is a headdress incorporating the idea of transformation, which translates well into the function of the comb. Wood. H. 32 cm. Collection William Brill, New York.

136 (right). Comb with miniature Banda/Kumbaruba mask. Baga/Nalu, early twentieth century. Wood, polychrome. H. 39 cm. Sammlung für Volkerkunde, St. Gallen, Switzerland (C2389).


continues in this vein for several hours, with various dancers taking turns under the headdress's weight. The art of transformation is clearly at the heart of the Banda masquerade. Although Banda is associated with "happy occasions," it was extremely sacred in the past, and even today seems to represent an important spiritual presence. Denise Paulme was told of another manifestation at Monchon, said to be an tlek/a-Tshol, but one incorporating forms like those of Banda: Paska .. . combines the jaws of a crocodile with the horns of an antelope. According to my informant, its composite nature makes it better able to pursue sorcerers; it can assure the defense of its people without being held up by the transformations which the eaters of human flesh cause their victims to undergo, and will go in search of them alike under the waters or in the depths of the bush (1959). Banda and Tonkongba, the two headdresses incorporating composite animal forms, fulfill the serious ritual function of movement between the natural and the physical world, and between distinct natural forms. When one considers the entire artistic ensemble, the complex becomes even greater. Tonkongba, embodying elements of sea and land, floats in and out of diachronic consciousness. The more complex Banda, with its companion Pende-Pende, formally explores worlds of contradictions and attempts their reconciliation. Baga history and social structure are saturated with such contradictions, confrontations, and resolutions, all of which are synthesized in their arts, if not always so successfully managed in real life.







137. Female dance headdress and costume (D'mba/Yamban). Buluiiits, probably Monchon Village, early twentieth century. The Baga speak of objects that were brought with them from the Fouta Djallon and of those that were created after settlement on the coast, such as the D'mba headdress, representing a Baga mother. Wood, polychrome, raffia, metal. H. 140 cm. excluding raffia. Museum d'Histoire NatureIle de Toulouse, Toulouse (127). Acquired 1937; collected by H. Labouret.

When the Baga speak of their arrival and installation on the coast, finding a new physical environment and new neighbors, fundamentally they are describing the establishment of a new society under new political and social conditions—essentially the reinvention of themselves as a people and a culture. We do not have the documentation to say whether the Baga arrived on the coast as dramatically as ethnohistory would have it, whether they gravitated to their current locations more gradually, or whether they have long inhabited the coast and some ancient crisis caused them to think of themselves in a new way. But whatever the past actually has been, the Baga have a sense of a historical and art-historical epoch beginning with a migration to the coast and coming to an end by various stages in the modern period, the first of which was the imposition of colonial rule. The art forms analyzed here, I will argue, acknowledge the presence of a new people on the Saga horizon, a people central to the themes of migration and resettlement. In their establishment of a new society, the Baga see the preeminence of the new and revolutionary art form as having been essential. Here we shall explore the principal forms that the Baga today associate with this epoch,forms neither brought down from primordial time in the Fouta Djallon nor invented by their immediate ancestors, but invented, nevertheless, to help them adjust to their changing circumstances. It is appropriate that the objects under consideration are representations of the quintessential woman. The female often stands in this region as a metaphor for the establishment of culture. This is clear, for example, in the sculpture, songs, oral narrative, and performance of the closely related Temne, whose systems of thought I have studied more thoroughly. In the Temne female initiation ceremony, in which the community renews itself with metaphors of planting seeds and transplanting, the seated female figure symbolizes the reestablishment of society. In Temne oral narrative, the world was created on a woman's head. The east is both the domain of women and the origin of life. Civilized earth is the "place of braiding"—the work of women. In many, many ways, the woman and the female figure are associated with "being" in the natural world of humankind (Lamp 1982:244-83). For the Temne, "bearing the mask" is synonymous with the bearing of life itself, expressed in the phrase i po'sara a-ron, "I have carried the mask on my head," said by the woman who gives birth (Sayers 1927:111). Four objects more than any other stand out in the history of Baga art as representing a view of beauty, comportment, righteousness, dignity, and social duty; in one CHAPTER VIII • FOUNDATIONS OF A NEW SOCIETY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


139(opposite). Headdress with two D'mba/Yamban figures. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Bulufiits, late nineteenth century. A number of headdresses featuring complete single and double D'mba figures exist, without field documentation. Wood. H.49 cm. Collection Alain de Monbrison, Paris.

case through the negation of all these things. These four are all dance headdresses in the form of a female bust. They do not form a coherent ritual system; rather, they have been developed in various places, and probably at various times, to establish, at particular ritual events, the accepted mode of behavior and being. D'mba: The Elder Mother By far the most famous of Baga artworks is the D'mba headdress (fig. 137),found among the north-central Baga subgroup the Sitemu and among their neighbors the Pukur and Buluriits. This is a colossal wooden headdress in the form of a female bust on four legs, worn with a costume of raffia and cloth. For the Baga, the dance of D'mba had no equal in its sheer visual pleasure, and it is still a source of nostalgia among the elders. The massive headdress of D'mba is widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding works of African art. D'mba is the Baga Sitemu name for the headdress normally called "Nimba" in the literature by non-Baga writers. The Pukur name is Yamban. The Buluriits use the term D'mba, confirming their testimony that they received the tradition from the Saga Sitemu around the turn of the century. "Nimba" (phonetically pronounced "n'mba" rather than "nimba") is the Susu name for the headdress, and for a number of other Baga and Nalu headdresses. This has been published before (Dauer 1978:9), but the name dies hard in the Western literature. The Susu do not use the D'mba or any other carved wooden headdress, and their name for it is enigmatic, as it seems to be Manding in derivation, meaning "Great Spirit" (Izart 1935:22). As so often with Baga art and ritual, information about D'mba has in the past been received mainly through Susu intermediaries, because of the relative inaccessibility of the Baga. The Baga Sitemu, Pukur, and Buluriits, who traditionally owned this masquerade exclusively, insist on their indigenous name, although they are well aware of the name used in the literature. The headdress and dance were documented as early as 1886 (fig. 138) (Coffinieres de Nordeck, who inexplicably called it "Penda-Penda," p. 284), and ended in the late 1950s. An early-seventeenth-century source, Manuel Alvares, has been cited to suggest D'mba's antiquity (Peoples 1972:fig. 151). I have retranslated this very enigmatic text from the original Portuguese in Alvares's manuscript of c. 1615 (f. 140), provided to me by P. E. H. Hair: The Cimo of the male elders—its idol is a very black wooden female figure called Cimoa. It comes out only at the occasional mourning for a deeply important person. Its dress is of straw, atop which [is seen] a figure with darts serving as eyes. When this figure is being carved, the man who brings food calls to the one who is making [the figure] by whistling. Once [the figure] is finished, they place it on a certain road where there is a spring, so that the first woman to go there says that she found it; she runs away in fright, and hence it is known what it is. All the old men of the village gather together and take it to their monastery and niche which they make in the forest next to some poulao [po/oii means "cotton tree" in the southern Baga dialects]. At the festival are horns, large drums, etc., which they take there with it.

138. Dance of D'mba, Baga Sitemu, Tshalbonto Village. This is the earliest clear record of the dance, showing emotions on the part of the men, women,and children that are uncharacteristic today and may be misread. Drawing: Y. Pranishnikoff(Coffinieres de

ICimo dos Velhos, o seu idolo e ua figura de pau de mulher muito preta, por nome Cimoa. Nao sal senao a algum choro de pessoa grave; o vestido é de palha, a qual meneia üa figura, servindo as setas de olhos. Enquanto lavram esta figura, o que leva de corner chama ao que a faz por assobio. Acabada ela, a poem em caminho certo, aonde haja fonte, para que a primeira mulher que vier all diga que a achou; e de medo vai fugindo, e logo se sabe o que é. Concorrem todos os velhos da aldeia e a levam ao seu mosteiro e nicho que fazem no mato junto a algum poulao. A festa sao buzinas, tabaques, etc., corn que o levam all.]


This brief notice, corroborated nowhere else, is intriguing but problematic: there are only three twentieth-century examples following Alvares' description of a "very black wooden female figure" constructed of a wooden body and a strawlike dress, and there is insufficient data on the corpus of ritual art that may have existed nearly four hundred years ago. Nevertheless, Alvares's description does indicate that the Baga had a very D'mba-like image at that time. Most Baga consultants expressed the opinion that the D'mba headdress was not

brought with their ancestors from the Fouta Djallon, but was created after their arrival on the coast: The ancestor of our ancestors was a sculptor of wood.... Our ancestors could imagine whatever they wished to sculpt, but D'mba did not arrive with our ancestors. It was after their installation that they carved the D'mba. They had so much imagination, so much initiative, that permitted them to carve so many masks, including the D'mba (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). Kinship data may help to date the creation of D'mba, although the history of kinship is also unclear. Where the ka-Tom clan, a late-arriving group, exists in a village, its members do not take part in the D'mba ritual except as observers. This would suggest that D'mba was created before the ka-Tom's arrival on the coast, and not in the Fouta Diallon, where it would presumably have been an integral part of Baga society. More conservatively, one might say that the clan has been excluded because of its alien origin, for which it has been written out of the central legitimizing migration story, and thus out of the associated ritual of identifying cultural construction. In either case, we have seen in a previous chapter that the spirit discovered on the coast by the ka-Tom, a-Bol, was reported as early as c. 1615 in the Alvares document. D'mba as a Bagacentric Creation In my previous work among the Temne, I made a thorough study of the spirits of the otherworld. All masked representations belong to that world of ethereal spirits and ancestors, and they form a sort of society, with husbands and wives, higher and lower ranks, and so forth. Getting along in the earthly world in large measure depends on how well one placates these more powerful beings. When I came to the Baga, I brought the same set of questions. But what had worked so well with the Temne only baffled their relatives the Baga. Is D'mba a kiirfin, a spirit? Absolutely not, they insisted; D'mba is not a "spirit" at all, neither wi-karfi nor noiik, the two categories of spiritual being. Educated Baga have all seen D'mba described as a "goddess" in the literature, and this is amusing to them and to their elders, who generally agreed that D'mba is simply an "idea," created by the Baga ancestors. It is the ancestors who gave us this custom. The land was pleasing, but there was no amusement. So they said, "What shall we do to amuse the women and children?" Someone got the idea for carving D'mba. D'mba is not to-lom [sacred], because we dance it with the women. You can recognize the person inside. You see his feet (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1985). D'mba represented an abstraction of an ideal of the female role in society. She was the universal mother who was to be honored because she had borne many children, and had nursed them to productive adulthood. She was the vision of woman at her zenith of power, beauty, and affective presence. She represented the Baga vision of goodness and light. Whether or not she was "sacred" is a point on which each Baga consultant has an independent view, but on this there is consensus: she was the invention of the Baga. Yet clearly this "idea" is something extraordinary. While not a spiritual being in the restricted sense that the Baga identify, and certainly not a deity, she remains a figure of spiritual power, as we would define that concept in the West. The young 158 CHAPTER VIII â&#x20AC;˘ FOUNDATIONS OF A NEW SOCIETY


dancer of D'mba, who was always male, took on the powers of an ethereal spiritual being. D'mba herself was endowed with enormous potential through her manipulation by Baga ritual specialists. Through the power of her suggestion engendered in ritual, young women gained the strength to bear children and to raise them to adulthood, the ancestors were encouraged to participate in the continuance of community well-being, rain was induced to fall, and the young men were driven to feats of cooperative excellence in agriculture. The issue of spirits and nonspirits needs further research; there is no literature on Baga cosmology, and it is possible that all our models are defective, that our definition of "spirit" is inadequate, and that the Baga categories are more complex than we have been able to fathom. Still, the fact remains that Baga consultants of all age categories differentiate clearly between whatever D'mba is and the other characters they refer to as spirits, such as a-Mantsho-no-Prin, a-Bol, a-Mantsho-ria-Tshol, and Dudu. Their references to D'mba are much more Bagacentric. D'mba, they insist, is only an "idea" of their ancestors, a notion of what might be attained in the best of all possible worlds. The Baga, as we shall see, conceive of her as a servant, an abstraction working completely at their command. Baga belief in the power of the works of their own creationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;essentially, in their ability to create their own world, and to invent themselvesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;has made miracles possible. In the example of D'mba and other masquerades associated with the creation of Baga society on the coast (as opposed to the traditions handed down from the Fouta Djallon) we see an anthropocentric cosmological view in which the Baga create their own spiritual world. They are in charge, and if the spiritual world has power, it is because the Baga have chosen to allow it to be so. Beginning with this period in which the Baga reinvent themselves, we shall see over and over again that they view their spiritual world as a cultural artifact. The Form D'mba's flat, pendant breasts suggest a mother of some years, and reveal the selfless dedication with which she has nursed her infants. Her hair is intricately braided in parallel rows, and is embellished with a high crest down the center. Her face, neck, and breasts are decorated with linear patterns: a horizontal line from the cheek to the ear, a curved line from the ear along the jawline, a line connecting these two lines, all ending at a circular line that surrounds the entire face. Brass furniture tacks are placed along these lines to punctuate that linear order with the brilliance and clarity that song lyrics associate with the intelligent and spiritually guided mind. 140. Dance of D'mba, Bulunits, Monchon Village. D'mba is thought of as an "idea," not a spiritual being, yet her power through ritual was extraordinary. This headdress is now in the collection of the Musee Barbier-Mueller, Geneva. Photo: Beatrice Appia, 1938. Courtesy the Musee de l'Homme, Paris.



141. Standing female figure. Baga Sitemu, late nineteenthâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;early twentieth century. The profusion of naturalistic figures produced by the Sitemu indicates that the D'mba figural style represents a specific characterization, not a regional schema for the human figure. Wood. H. 82 cm. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich (6229). Acquired 1924; collected by Fred Bowald.

142 (right). Standing male D'mba figure. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Buluriits, late nineteenth century. Although the D'mba masquerade is always female, male and female D'mba figures exist, suggesting that the ideal that D'mba represents crosses gender lines. Wood. H. 59 cm. Collection James J. Ross, New York.

143 (opposite page). Janus head (D'mba/Yamban) on socle. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Bulunits, early twentieth century. The D'mba head appears on a number of objects, including sculptures used on shrines. This piece perhaps also suggests dual gender. Wood. H. 45.8 cm. Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, Netherlands (43-34). Acquired 1964. 160 CHAPTER VIII â&#x20AC;˘ FOUNDATIONS OF A NEW SOCIETY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

Painted wooden ear ornaments are sometimes attached around the ear (fig. 137), and a straw or cloth pendant is attached to the nasal septum. On each cheek, just below the eyes, two short lines are incised, as the marks of Baga ethnicity. D'mba's cloth shawl is always of imported cotton cloth, sometimes dark indigo or black, sometimes in African tie-dye, but never of African manufacture. We have no documentation of any other kind of cloth being used for the costume of D'mba. One wonders what sort of costume, if any, preceded the European contact, and how deep, historically, the purchase of such dark cotton cloth reaches. We are reminded of Almada's 1594 report of a brisk Portuguese trade in "cotton cloth, black clothing from India, cloth from Arras, red caps, black cloaks for the head men"(1964:70). Machine-printed cloth was available in Europe by the mid-nineteenth century, and would have been inexpensive enough to have been exported to West Africa soon afterward. By the end of the nineteenth century Africa's demand for European cloth was enormous, and the value of the cloth entering Guinea from abroad exceeded 6,000,000 French francs, the overwhelming bulk coming from England (Famechon 1900:150). All Baga masquerades developed in the twentieth century use European printed cloth for the costume (fig. 200). If ritual use can be reliably tied to historical life (the Amish of Pennsylvania, for example, prohibit the use of printed cloth, for it was not available to their seventeenth-century ancestors, whom they emulate), we might assume that the costume of D'mba was well established before the mid-nineteenth century.

144. Female dance headdress (D'mba/Yamban). Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Bulunits, late nineteenth-early twentieth century. D'mba exhibits all the marks of noble motherhood, including finely braided hair, nurturing breasts, and elegant comportment. Wood, metal, raffia. H. 132 cm.(headdress only). Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, Paris (1963.177). Acquired 1931.

D'mba in the Context of Generational Tension Baga society, as we have seen, is composed of age grades, which can be at odds with each other and which institutionalize generational conflict. The Baga often describe the development of their art traditions as an overturning of previously accepted forms associated with one age group or another; it is very much a theme of reinvention. In generational conflict, the youth steal and appropriate from the elders, and the elders in turn confront the youth with their own reactionary forms. As a creation of the Baga mind and a symbol of cultural reinvention, D'mba (or Yamban)conforms to this model of generational tension. Testimony from the Pukur village of Era, confirming testimony from Baga Sitemu consultants, suggests that the appropriation of D'mba/Yamban by the youth began there: Originally there was only the sacred Yamban. This was kept in a sacred place and never moved until the time of harvest. At planting and transplanting, sacrifices were made to it before beginning the work. If the rains were late in coming around May,sacrifices were made again, and the rain would start immediatelyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;often before the person could return home. At harvest, no rice could be touched until the ritual of Yamban. She was brought to a central place in the town,surrounded by a high palm-leaf fence. There she was danced in a very solemn ceremony attended only by the old men and women. Later, the young men copied the original Yamban and made dances at other celebrations, such as marriage. Each quartier would have one. They would travel to other villages. This Yamban danced a livelier dance, with the young women throwing rice at it....The dancer inside the mask was considered sacred. When he got tired, others would come and take his place (elder and carver, Christian, Era, Pukur, 1986). Most consultants agree that the elders' D'mba headdress did not differ in form from that of the youths, although, as might be expected, some elders claim that their D'mba was finer. Generally, however, when the Baga speak of D'mba, they tend to refer to the D'mba of the youths, as this was what most knew. The elders' D'mba is differentiated only by a special term:


The Great D'mba The Elders' D'mba The Sacred Yamban

D'mba-do-Pon D'mba-e-Temil Yamban-Andyan

Baga Sitemu Buluiiits Pukur

We spoke to a previous dancer of D'mba who, although now elderly, seemed to view the youths' role from the perspective of the youths. He was remembering D'mba from the vantage point of a youthful dancer, and the rapprochement of the young and old: D'mba belonged to the old men of the village, who had its secret. As for us [the youths], it was the dance that concerned us. When the D'mba was danced, the old men of the village blessed the new rice in order that it would be well managed and guarded in view of giving a good harvest that year. They also blessed all the villagers (Sitemu elder, Tolkotsh, 1992). The appropriation of D'mba by the youth may again have been in response to a crisisâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;perhaps the coming of the French, and the new demand for entertainment, as well as for youthful leadership in ritual. Or perhaps the story is fictitious. Perhaps the elders are simply situating themselves and D'mba within the structure of generational conflict, which seems to absorb them. The existence of free-standing male and female figures (figs. 142, 171), and various staffs in the style of the D'mba headdress has misled some outside observers to conclude that this simply represents the universal northern Baga figurative schema. But the northern Baga normally have represented the human figure as naturalistically as the southern Baga. It seems that the huge, prognathous head with long, thin nose and peg mouth represents specifically the character of D'mba, of dual gender. The function of these figures and staffs is extremely obscure, leading me to believe that they held a more sacred and prohibited role than the D'mba headdress, and that perhaps the figural tradition, especially, is of even greater antiquity. Early collection dates suggest this: 1867 at the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen; before 1883 at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; by contrast, the earliest collection date of a D'mba headdress is 1902. Coffinieres de Nordeck (1886:292) observed, in his description of K'fen, that "A small wood fetish set in some corner served as a household God," and he thought they resembled figures from the Marquesas Islands (a fairly clear indication that these were the D'mba figures). He collected some figures at Tolkotsh in 1885, one of which is now in the Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie (fig. 22). D'mba-Da-Tshol: The Young Fool The issue of elders' D'mbas and youths' D'mbas becomes more complicated still. In 1987, in the course of fieldwork, I learned for the first time of another type of D'mba when performances were organized for the research team at two villages of the Pukur and Baga Sitemu (fig. 148). This character, said to be exclusively the possession of the elders, was described as entirely different from the D'mba we have seen, and even more powerful. Its name was D'mba-da-Tshol in Baga Sitemu, Yamban-Rach in Pukur, meaning in both languages "The D'mba of Medicine." More loosely, the modifier tshol, or Flach, signifies a supernatural agent of transformation. Just as D'mba was beautiful, so D'mba-da-Tshol was hideous: "It is an ugly mask meant to entertain the elders" (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). D'mba represented the epitome of female beauty and comportment, and her dance was one of elegance and the exquisite manipulation of energy; D'mba-da-Tshol represented the opposite. The most common style of D'mba-da-Tshol (which I affectionately notate as DDT)has only one breast, a single ear (on the left), a crooked mouth, deep depressions for the eyes (instead of D'mba's large eyes), and often other irregularities (fig. 145). There are also other examples featuring a full-breasted female bust and a

145. Female bust headdress with single breast (D'mba-Da-Tshol/Yamban-Rach). Baga Sitemu/Pukur, early twentieth century. The beauty and nobility of D'mba are contrasted with the ugliness and buffoonery of D'mba-da-Tshol. Wood. H.49 cm. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich (12238). Acquired 1958.



146. Dance of D'mba-da-Tshol, Baga Sitemu. A variation of the character bears a horn on the head. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

148. Dance of D'mba-da-Tshol, Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village. Carver: Georges Bangoura. This is the D'mba-da-Tshol made for the author. In masquerade, this disheveled, undisciplined character must be restrained on a cord by an assistant. Photo: 147 (left). Female bust headdress with single breast (D'mba-Da-Tshol). Raga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village. Carver: Georges Bangoura, 1987. The most common features of D'mba-da-Tshol are a single eye, a single breast, a crooked nose, and a single ear. Here a cigarette adds to the antiaesthetic. Wood. H. 54.5 cm. Collection Frederick Lamp, Baltimore.


Frederick Lamp, 1987.

single or double horn on top of the head (fig. 146). A thoroughly ugly bust, in the Musee de l'Homme since 1883, that I suspect may fall into this category has a baboonlike head with facial markings similar to D'mba's, ears below the head on the neck, and two sets of tiny pert breasts. A headdress danced for us among the Pukur fit the standard style, and was splattered with a white rice paste. A D'mba-daTshol created in Tolkotsh in 1987 added a contemporary outrage: a cigarette in the mouth (fig. 147). The costume of D'mba-da-Tshol was equally bizarre. Instead of a fine cloth and a voluminously beautiful raffia skirt, she wore a disheveled costume put together haphazardly of dried banana leaves and branches, other dried leaves, rags, and old rice bags (fig. 148). The operative word was refuse. This is the attire of a fool. D'mba-da-Tshol danced primarily at the wakes of deceased male elders, and secondarily at weddings. Elders said that she used to collect food and money during these events, presumably with some degree of coercion. When D'mba would dance in the morning, D'mba-da-Tshol would dance around noon; then D'mba would dance again in the afternoon. The two never danced together, but only in alternation. Some consultants claimed that she was also danced at the end of the ka-BereTshol initiation for young boys and girls. All these events have to do with important human transitions, moments when there would be particular fear of sorcerers. Apparently D'mba-da-Tshol provided a formidable counterbalance; she was known to kill when necessary. Since it was the elders who owned D'mba-da-Tshol, the headdress was worn not by a strong young man but by a less vigorous older one. Her movements were comedic rather than stately. She was said to "relieve tension." This is explained in the context of her use at a wake, of which Bohumil Holas wrote that "the role of this mask is to amuse the survivers of the deceased person—that is why the dance often takes place in front of the house of the widow or another descendant. His [sic] brusque entrance is always applauded; because [this character] is of a really wild nature.... the old men love the dance and the good palm wine" (1947:64). Abraham Camara added that the entrance "was made more dramatic by those who could produce a racket (with bottles, old pots, cow horns, etc.)" (1975:64). The dancers of D'mba-da-Tshol that we witnessed in 1987 moved with the slow gait of an elder, faltering to the left and right, shuffling and hopping lamely. Running into a crowd of women, this masked character would scare them into flight. Women would dance toward her, holding staffs with tin-can rattles. One woman carried a canoe paddle. As amusing as D'mba-da-Tshol might have been, she was clearly frightening as well. In dance she had to be restrained on a rope held by a male assistant dressed in the head-tie and wrappers of a woman (fig. 148). This gender switch, common throughout the Baga subgroups in the context of masquerade representing the female, is a complex subject on which we received little satisfactory information. Most consultants simply offered the fact that this is how it has always been done, and seemed a bit mystified by the question. Perhaps it has to do with the feminine event—the honoring of a female character, as in the ritual for a-Bol—in which the participants identify with the gendered category. Or perhaps it has to do not so much with a feminine role as with the unpredictability of the lead character—thus the unpredictable gender of the assistant. The assistant would watch D'mba-daTshol's movements warily, always facing her and from time to time reining her in. Slowly reeling in the cord, he would hold up his right hand toward her, as if to indicate caution, to say, "Hold back." As D'mba-da-Tshol would rush to one side of the plaza, the assistant would duck to the other side, quickly keeping a taut cord. Abraham Camara, as a university student, described the pandemonium of the event that he remembered as a child:

149. Female D'mba/Yamban bust headdress with two horns. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Bulutiits, early twentieth century. Several horned D'mba busts exist, possibly representing D'mba-da-Tshol. Wood. H. 78.8 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York (1979.206.74).



In company with his "aide" or mediator, this mask, in his frenetic course, often chases and pursues the inhabitants of the village that he meets along his path. They are flagellated as soon as they are caught. He creates, as well, such a total disorder with his approach behind the houses that his appearance occasions an alert throughout the country, whose people are pressed to retire hastily to their respective homes.... What characterizes this dance is not only the complete absence of harmony of the sounds of the instruments, but also the total absence of a presentable, studied choreography, so that the ceremony has an overall entertaining aspect that unrolls in a veritable anarchy (1975:64-65). Many of the songs accompanying the dance express sorrow, as appropriate for a wake. A song may consist simply of the repeated expression of supreme sorrow, wo/o/o, with the calling of a widow's name. Some songs rebuke the dead for leaving suddenly, and for leaving the heirs in a bad state: Abol Baki [a man's name] Abol Baki You have thrown your people away. man gbal a-tof o 150. Dance of Zigiren-Woncle/Yokui, probably Nalu, Victoria Village. At Victoria, a European trading post, the headdress was danced to honor the arrival of a

Other songs reveal the rogue aspect of D'mba-da-Tshol, and bear the sense of a self-consciousness, a defensiveness, even a provocation. One such song concerns Solmente, said to have been the carver of D'mba-da-Tshol at Kaklentsh:

Sunderland airplane. Photo: J. C,adenat, 1947. Courtesy the Institut Fondamental de l'Afrique Noire, Dakar.

I, Solmente My D'mba— I will carry it myself. I have borne it myself. I, Solmente

Solmente D'mba di-mi i na sär kit i no sare Solmente

The song seems to challenge those who disdain Solmente's ugly carving. Consultants interpreted it to say,"I don't care what you think—I'll dance my ugly D'mba anyway." D'mba-da-Tshol's demeanor, and her generally voluptuous (though single) breast, suggest that the bust represents not just an ugly woman but a young one. Perhaps this is why Holas was given the name "Nimba Pefet," "The Young Nimba," for her (1947:64). If so, her posturing would be entirely in keeping with the well-demonstrated Baga tradition of generational conflict, in this case convoluted by the use by old savants of a young, uncultured character to defy young men using an old, cultured character. The contrast between the performances of D'mba-da-Tshol and of D'mba (to be discussed below) poignantly illustrates the range of human behavior, but it must also have reminded people of the complementary nature of the diverse qualities that constitute a social system, and of the harmony that can result from the effective channeling of disparate modes. Without acknowledging D'mba-da-Tshol, one cannot truly comprehend D'mba. Both, we should note, are D'mba, and both are human nature. Perhaps ugliness, when represented in ritual, can be seen as aligned with the negatively powerful, a more terrifying force than beauty. D'mba's power tends to be directed toward positive ends: a productive rice crop, fertility, a smooth transition at death. D'mba-da-Tshol's power, rather, is directed toward retribution, and her presence mainly at wakes, though comic, seems to have reminded people that malfeasance in regard to the person's death would be met with the ugliest of punishments. Zigiren-Wonde: The Young Bride Outside the area of the Sitemu and Pukur, where D'mba appears, a smaller female bust headdress with a somewhat naturalistic head and full, elongated breasts, worn in the same way as D'mba, is still danced in popular celebration today (figs. 150,152). These busts have been described by many different names in the literature, but the


generic name that surfaced repeatedly among our Baga Koba and Kakissa informants was Zigiren-Wonde. Among these subgroups, the name was said to mean "The Young Bride" (in a mixture of Baga and Susu). Other names that appear are Komo (among the Nalu), ra-Bomp ra-Feth ("Head of a Young [woman]," among the Temne), Simogine ("Sacred Woman" in Susu), and Yokui (in Susu). The Susu do not use this headdress, despite their several names for it. Its distribution, however, is wide, including the Landuma and Nalu in the North, the Buluriits, the southern Baga groups of Kakissa, Koba, and Kalum, and, even farther south, the Mmani and the northern Temne of Sierra Leone. Holas (1947:66) wrote that it extended east even to the Mikifore and Susu, and north of the Nalu to the Diola. Perhaps it is significant that D'mba and Zigiren-Wonde overlap only among the Buluriits, who claim to have borrowed D'mba from the Sitemu only a century ago. Like D'mba,Zigiren-Wonde represents a married woman who has given birth to children. Thus her breasts are long, though rarely flat. She is a cultivated woman, with scarification patterns on her neck and breasts and, often, rings around her neck, like those found farther south among the closely related Temne and other nonrelated groups. Brass furniture tacks sometimes decorate her face, including her eyes. Whereas D'mba never wears a necklace, Zigiren-Wonde often wears strands of beads. And where the D'mba bust stands on four legs, the Zigiren-Wonde bust has

151 (above left). Bust headdress: the young bride (Zigiren-Wiinde). Baga Koba/Kakissa/Landuma, early twentieth century. Representing "The Young Bride," this headdress serves a function among the southern and northern groups similar to that of D'mba among the central groups. Wood. H. 79 cm. The Brooklyn Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Friede. (74.66.5).

152(above right). Dance of Zigiren-Wonde, Baga Koba. The masquerade characterizes Zigiren-Wonde as a wife whose distended breasts indicate child nurturing, yet whose name emphasizes the event of marriage. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.



153. Wedding procession: the groom's brother carries the bride to the groom's home (reenactment), Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. The form of the bride as she straddles the bearer's head resembles the bearing of the Zigiren-Wonde headdress. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

154. Bust headdress: the young bride (Zigiren-Wonde). Baga Koba/Kakissa/Landuma, early twentieth century. Like D'mba,Zigiren-Wonde usually bears a coiffure resembling that of Fulbe women. Wood, pigment, metal. H. 55 cm. Collection Pascal Legrand, Paris. 168 CHAPTER VIII â&#x20AC;˘ FOUNDATIONS OF A NEW SOCIETY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

only two front legs, or sometimes a flat or rounded board, which the bearer holds in dance. The Zigiren-Wonde headdress often includes a high crest of a kind associated with Fulbe women (fig. 168). It is not worn by Baga women either now or at any documented time in the past. One example, in the Brooklyn Museum, faithfully replicates not only the Fulbe woman's distinctive crest but also her long hair braids or extensions, which line the side of the face of the wooden bust as far as the mouth. On its chest is carved an ornament that Rene Bravmann has identified as of Fulbe craftsmanship (1983:43). The double mark under the eyes, however, identifies the figure as Baga. The Zigiren-Wonde headdress is notable for its two legs in front, which support its breasts. In performance, we should note well the form: a woman's bust held above the dancer's head, her legs falling down the front of his chest. This form seems to resemble closely the real scene of a new bride being transported from the wedding to her husband's abode (fig. 153): the bride sits on the shoulders of her husband's brother, her legs straddling his head and falling down his chest, where he grasps them in order to hold her in place. Whether or not this scene, repeated over and over each dry season, is the source for this headdress, it certainly coincides with it in form, context, and meaning, as we shall explore in more detail later. The costume of this "married woman," like that of D'mba, is a full-length raffia dress, covered at the top by a cloth wrapped as a shawl from around the back of the neck to under the breasts, where it is fastened together. A fringe of cloth may be attached around the neck, a handkerchief around the head, and there may be jewelry at the ears and neck. In terms of dating the headdress, it may be significant that Zigiren-Wonde's cloth shawl, unlike that of D'mba, is not a dark blue, but is usually a European printed cloth, which, as I have mentioned above, would have been available later than plain colors, and which would suggest a later invention of Zigiren-Wonde. On the other hand, the difference may indicate not a lesser antiquity but simply a greater adaptability on the part of Zigiren-Wonde and her followers. Among other uses, this type of headdress was said to have been worn by young men at initiations and wakes. Landuma consultants, who hadn't seen the dance since about 1930, said that the headdress appeared at wakes for the dead a year or more after the death, and that it was an event only for initiated elders, considered very sacred. Among the Baga Kakissa, this masquerade was described as the sacred property of the old men, and appeared at the boys' initiation called kä-sar and at the adult initiation of Menda. In some places, young men may also have worn it at the final coming-out of the girls from their initiation. Among the Nalu, it has been said to appear in the young people's celebration at the harvest (Chefs 1966:34). Our research team had the opportunity to see the dance at a village of the Baga Koba, where it is still current. It is performed to the sound of small drums hung horizontally by the side, large kettle-type drums, and iron gongs, at a rhythm of four beats to the measure. Zigiren-Wonde danced briskly, swaying back and forth, darting left and right, twirling about, and running around the circle. Sa-Sira-Ren: The Young Maiden Some of the groups who dance the Zigiren-Wonde headdress, particularly the Baga Koba and Kalum, also use another, similar character, but with firm breasts, and no "leg" structure in front, but rather a simple shaft under the bust. This is Sa-Sira-Ren (fig. 158), identified as the Maiden, though the literal meaning of the name is obscure. (Ren, however, means "woman" in all Baga dialects.) Two marks on the cheeks identify the maiden as Baga. As with D'mba, furniture tacks embellish the lines of hair and scarification, and sometimes the eyes. Unlike Zigiren-Wonde, the maiden headdress does not bear a clearly identifiable Fulbe coiffure. Usually the hair shows corn-rowing, with a low central crest.

156. Bust headdress: the young bride (Zigiren-Wonde). Baga Koba/Kakissa/Landuma, early twentieth century. The masquerade was held at wakes for the dead, at initiations, and at harvest festivals. Wood, pigment, metal. H. 84cm. Collection Hans van Witteloostuijn, Delft, The Netherlands.

155 (opposite page). Bust headdress: the young bride (Zigiren-Wonde). Baga Koba/Kakissa/Landuma, early twentieth century. This headdress is distinguished from the D'mba not only by the naturalistic head but also by the support of only two legs. Wood, metal. H. 78.3 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York (1979.206.238).



158 (right). Bust headdress: the maiden (Sa-Sira-Ren). Baga Kakissa/Koba/Kalum, early twentieth century. The maiden is a popular masquerade among the youth of the southern Baga. Wood, metal tacks. H. 54 cm. Stuart Struever, Denver.

157. Two dancers of Sa-Sira-Ren and one unidentified headdress, probably southern Baga. Sa-Sira-Ren cut an elegant figure, tall yet petite. Photo: G. Labitte, 1947. Courtesy the Institut Fondamental de l'Afrique Noire, Dakar.


Sa-Sira-Ren's costume is unlike any we have examined so far (figs. 157, 240). It follows the design of costumes used on twentieth-century headdresses, a fact that may indicate a late creation. But the headdress's simple abstract style relates more to that of earlier headdresses. Unlike several female headdresses that we shall discuss in a later chapter, Sa-Sira-Ren is not seen by the Baga as a modern development. The cloth-and-raffia costume is constructed over an armature of bamboo cut in strips to within about ten or twenty centimeters from one end. These strips are fanned out and bound with reeds to form a conical shape, under which the dancer will be enclosed to the waist. At the upper tip of the cone, the uncut bamboo forms a cylinder which serves as the receptacle for the peg of the bust headdress. A short printed-cloth skirt is attached to the bottom of the bust, covering and hiding the bamboo cylinder. Underneath this, a large costume tailored from colorful print cloth hangs from the bamboo cylinder, covering the conical armature and falling approximately to the dancer's knees. Beneath the cloth, a heavy skirt of raffia is hung from the lower rungs of the conical armature to the ground. The printed cloth is always a European import, tailored as an upper cone (usually constructed of four roughly triangular sections) to cover the conical armature, from which four large rectangular panels of the same material hang to the dancer's knees. Each cloth panel is bordered with a separate cloth fringe. A hole in the front top panel allows the dancer to see out. Additional ornamentation is often added to the headdress, including a head-tie, earrings, strands of beads around the neck, and pendants. The full effect is that of a beautifully polished and embellished young woman, petite from the waist up. There is a generous volume to the cloth-covered costume, so that the entire effect, with the nude bust on top, is of a woman with an enormous billowing skirt. Events at which Sa-Sira-Ren danced in the past are not well known. R. Schnell recorded the dance at the coming-out of young women from initiation among the Baga Kalum at the village of Nongo (1949:86). The dancer was male, as is the case today. Musicians accompanying the dance beat large "casque" drums and blew on long wooden trumpets. The masked dance took place just before the young women's final exhibition dance. Sa-Sira-Ren is unequivocally the property of young unmarried men. She is the object of their desire, and the focus of important and critical entertainment. Today and perhaps in the past, she also functions politically to instill a sense of pride in Baga youth. This will be explored in the final chapter. The Performance Of D'mba Before we began our fieldwork in Guinea, little had been published on the performance aspects of D'mba, or on any of the other three female headdresses described here. Our work concentrated on the Baga Sitemu, where, fortunately, the young people were beginning to gather the momentum for a rebirth of their artistic heritage. Although our team visited several villages of all the other dialect groups of the Baga, Pukur, and Buluiiits, and had the opportunity to witness the dances of all these headdresses, it was the dance of D'mba that presented itself most forcefully. The groups to which she belongs are absolutely passionate about her. The young men who danced D'mba in the 1940s and 1950s are now elderly, and are eager to reminisce about her. With the help of the youths of today, they are working to revive the tradition. Thus it was that our conversations frequently turned to the dance of D'mba, and that in several villages we were fortunate enough to observe her performance. The fully costumed D'mba appeared publicly on many occasions that served as milestones of personal and communal growth: at marriages, births, wakes for the dead, rituals of ancestral commemoration, festivals of the rice harvest and planting, and ceremonies of hospitality. At weddings (held from January to June), she appeared to give direction to the new union. She appeared at the wakes of important

159. Bust headdress: the maiden (Sa-Sira-Ren). Baga Kalum/Koba/Kakissa, early twentieth century. Unlike the other female bust headdresses predating the 1930s, Sa-Sira-Ren does not normally have the Fulbe coiffure, and she dresses in modern print cloth. Wood, plastic, polychrome. H.60.8 cm. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat Zurich (6228). Acquired 1924; collected by Fred Bowald.




men and women (generally held from February through April, postponed after the burial as necessary), initiating the dead into the world of the ancestors, where they would continue to contribute to the living community's well-being. She appeared at the ceremony of the first fruits of the harvest (in November or December), celebrating the productivity that had resulted from proper social comportment and interaction with the spiritual and ancestral world. She appeared at the time of planting (from April to June), rallying the people to the difficult task ahead and inspiring them to expectant vitality. And no less a function of D'mba was the welcoming of important personalities, such as government dignitaries, foreign emissaries, and visiting art historians, as documented for a century, from the visit of Coffinieres de Nordeck in 1886 to my own visit in 1986. In some villages D'mba/Yamban was used in idiosyncratic ways. Among the Pukur, she danced at the end of the male initiation for the benefit of the elder men and women, after which the final coming-out dance could be performed. At K'fen, women who were barren would dance around her in order to become fertile. A barren woman would go to the sacred grove where the old men sat with D'mba; she would kneel there, and when she left, she was said to have left pregnant. Although D'mba is not a "spirit" or "goddess" in Baga taxonomy, then, her critical contribution to almost every important communal moment indicates that she certainly played a formidable role in the spiritual world. Each quartier of the village would have their own D'mba, and with generally three quartiers per village, any one village might have three or more D'mbas. At any ceremony, each quartier might dance its D'mba in succession, but never together with others, and would be aided, in each case, by the participation of the entire village. Each quartier would compete with the other with its own distinctive drumming and songs. At Tolkotsh, each of the three D'mbas danced throughout the village, progressing in a prescribed pattern through each quartier. According to an elder at Kawass, there, "each quartier danced in its own quartier without going to the neighboring quartiers. The entire village attended the dance, some dancing and others watching the dance of D'mba." The spirit of competition was not always amiable:

160 (opposite page). Female dance headdress (D'mba/Yamban). Baga/Pukur/Buluiiits, early twentieth century. D'mba appeared at ceremonies of harvest, planting, marriage, birth, ancestral commemoration, and hospitality. Wood. H. 128 cm. Private collection, Antwerp, Belgium; collected by 1960.

One day, in the course of the dance of D'mba, there were disputes because of a song that a dancer from the quartier of Dakmamboi had intoned and was rejected by those of AbarikaDisre. In turn, the song of AbafikaDisre was equally rejected by those of Dakmamboi. Immediately a scuffle was provoked. Dancers turned into fighters for the duration of an hour, and the cries of the distraught women arose and alerted the inhabitants of the neighboring village of Katako, who came to separate the men of the two quartiers of Kawass (Adolphe Camara). Preparation for the Appearance: The Slave Preparation for the dance of a newly carved D'mba was elaborate, and varied from place to place. Generally, a sacrifice of wine was made at the ka-lo-kä-pon, the sacred house, and an elder would conduct a private ritual with rice bread and kola. An intriguing tradition has been cited identically by consultants from the closely related villages of Bukor and K'fen, and nowhere else, summarized here: When a new D'mba was carved, it would be given the name of a woman in the village. ... The woman chosen was someone native to the village who had married outside the village, but who was faithful to return home for all important ceremonies (elder, Muslim, Bukor, Sitemu, 1986). The woman selected is known for her seriousness. She goes to the edge of the village at about four A.M. to meet D'mba. She comes back and says, "People, come outâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;I have seen a slave [i fir wi-tshar]." She must be the first to announce the coming of the dance.

161. Headdress in the form of a bird-woman (Kividundo). Baga Koba, Katema Village. With a bust like that of Sa-Sira-Ren, this figure has the body of a bird, suggesting, perhaps, a singular interpretation of the character. Wood, polychrome. H. 53.3 cm. Private collection.



162. Dance of D'mba, Saga Sitemu. In some traditions, D'mba was introduced to the community by a virtuous woman who would announce,"I have seen a slave." Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

When D'mba comes out, the woman holds its raffia and says again, "I have seen a slave" (elder, Muslim, K'fen, Sitemu, 1986). The explanation given for this curious twist was this: D'mba was referred to as a slave because she was a "possession" of the people, and was expected to "work" for them. To understand this identity, it would be useful to have a further study of the meaning of the term wi-tsbar (slave). The Baga for the most part eschewed the possession of slaves; they were themselves enslaved heavily by their neighbors, especially the Fulbe. Some Baga owned slaves, but these most often came from families caught in the middle of local warfare, who were essentially given refuge and ultimately absorbed into Baga society, if at a lower rank. It is highly unlikely, and undocumented, that the Baga would have enslaved their own people. Thus the image of a Baga woman (identified as such through the Baga scarification marks) as a slave of the Baga is enigmatic. Perhaps D'mba is identified with her namesake: a Baga woman who has left to serve another people as a wife (also considered a possession), and who returns. Or perhaps the term "wi-tshar," which today is of course obsolete, has more the sense of something or someone without lineageâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;of a status created by the Baga, and given a role in Baga society in order to accomplish Baga objectives. Baga consultants, however, explained the term simply in the context of ownership and performance, and perhaps there is nothing more profound than that, nor less. Here again, the concept of a spiritual manifestation among the Baga is unusual. D'mba is not a representative from a higher world who must be induced to bless the supplicants of this frail human dependency; she is the work of this world, a feat of Baga spiritual engineering, and the Baga are completely in charge. She is their instrument. The Full Artistic Context The events we saw began with the appearance of a line of drummers in single file from behind a house, dancing while beating their drums, followed by the D'mba dancer. They would move gradually to the central plaza (fig. 162). The dancer of D'mba would execute both sedate and vigorous steps, sometimes twirling, now pacing delicately, then falling and rising up again. The crowd would cheer wildly after D'mba would float around the perimeter of the circle, suddenly whirl around, and stop abruptly. Some movements were absolutely spectacular:



163. Dance of D'mba, Baga Sitemu. Both men and women accompanied D'mba in her dance, often slapping her breasts and throwing rice. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990.

Someone would talk to the dancer through the holes between the breasts. The dancer could lift the mask up high, holding the circular hoop attached to the "legs," and twirl it above his head. He could even remove it, climb onto the roof of a house by means of a ladder, and others would hand the mask up to him, and he would continue dancing there (elder, Christian, Era, Pukur, 1996). D'mba danced to the accompaniment of large drums (figs. 140, 162), today normally numbering four or five, though a dozen or even thirty or forty was not uncommon in the past (Voix VII, 9, 1932:14, XI, 11, 1936:3). The drum, called seiigbe, was large and cylindrical, with a head at each end connected by hide cords along the sides. The drummer slung it by a cord from his shoulder to hang at his thighs, and beat it with a single baton. Behind his waist hung a cluster of metal bells, and metal castanets (sanda) hung at his ankles. The drummers performed a dance in synchronization, first facing inward toward the circle for a number of measures, then turning to face outward for the same number of measures, and periodically reversing their movement from clockwise to counterclockwise and back. Other drummers beat the rhythm on the tonal slit gong (tali among the Baga, kirinyi among the Susu; fig. 132). Men wandering through the crowd also blew on antelope-horn trumpets. The crowd of onlookers, both male and female, would take active part in giving homage to D'mba. They would often slap her breasts, in affirmation of her fecund durability and in homage to her nurturing power. This act has also been said to have endowed its performer with fecundity (Boris Kegel-Konietzko, personal communicationâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;information received at Kifinda among the Bulufiits, 1958). The songs were sung by the women, with men joining only on the chorus. At all the events I witnessed, women carried some objectâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;fans, long staffs hung with rattles, branches with leaves, or fly whisks. Women would also throw rice at D'mba. One particular woman was charged with the task of following D'mba and collecting the stray pieces of raffia that might fall from her costume, and also with monitoring the energy level of the D'mba dancer (Sekou Beka Bangoura 1972:53). Djibril Tamsir Niane learned at Kamsar that sick children might be thrown over the top of D'mba from one relative to another in order to bring about a cure (1982a:63). The dance would begin in the early morning and could continue until sundown. It often extended over several days, demanding that several master dancers take turns dancing the headdress. Songs were led by the women, with the men joining the choruses. Of the lyrics we recorded in 1987, most carry social admonitions,



in a metaphorical frame that to the outsider may seem ambiguous. Some of these admonitions can be summarized as follows: Don't be obstinate when taking part in a court case; respect your in-laws; don't be duplicitous in politics; don't gossip; don't listen to rumors; don't be pompous. Others have to do with personal and family problems: the demise of a family due to feuds; death from witchcraft; the need for the clan to back its leading elder. The lack of hospitality is of concern in these lyrics: Listen, Kamfori Siaka The Bagaland is rotten. When you go to a village And you can't find a place to stay That's what I think about.

Kamfori Siaka ma ne-o da-baka de-letsh-e nte man der da-re ta ma yo no ma m bere ma i to i ma nya kum [Susu]

Some songs have to do specifically with D'mba: an appeal for a new house to shelter her with the coming of the rains; or, as follows, an appeal to the elders for permission to dance: Karamoko Bangoura, listen. Bangoura, listen. We've come to borrow D'mba So we can take it to show to the elders. People, you elders, lend us this D'mba So we can show it to the people.

karamoko Bangoura ma ne Bangoura ma ne san der no ma sake su D'mba nde sii kekre siin ko mentre a-biki a-tof-o na na a-biki na sake su D'mba nde sii ko mentre a-tof

Some songs refer to the dead: We will rejoice this year. Don't you know the man called Buka? For him they will come to offer a sacrifice. This year we offer a sacrifice. Oh, we will rejoice this year.

e pan kule kä-rin nke-o man tshere-fe wurkun iiwe an-we buka ma nkon an der wur sarka kä-rin nke ka m bok-o e-pan kule kä-rin nke-o

The Allure of the Forbidden Woman In attempting to understand D'mba and her counterpart Zigiren-Wonde, we are confronted with one aspect that is exceptionally curious: some of their features characterize not Baga women either now or in the past, but women of other ethnic groups, particularly Fulbe women of high status. Hairstyles documented in photographs from the first half of the twentieth century and from outside Baga territory show forms remarkably similar to that of the D'mba headdress. A photograph of a Fulbe woman from the Fouta Djallon (fig. 164) shows a crested hairstyle with a dual center ridge formed by the meeting of both sides of the crest in a central seam; a pegged braid protrudes at the nape of the neck, suggesting the origin of the short peg at the neck of D'mba. A photo of a woman from the Limba, who border the Fulbe to the south, shows a similar hairstyle (fig. 166) with an extension of the crest in an arc over the forehead to the bridge of the nose, just as is carved on the head of D'mba. At the sides of their faces, Fulbe women often fashioned their hair, with fiber extensions, into an ornament forming a group of long lines, usually converging at 176 CHAPTER VIII • FOUNDATIONS OF A NEW SOCIETY


164. Fulbe woman, Fouta Djallon. Like D'mba, the

165. Fulbe girl, Fouta Dja!Ion. Photo: anonymous,

Fulbe woman wears a coiffure with a central crest and

c. 1930. Courtesy Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Paris.

braided sides. Long extensions along the sides of the face resemble D'mba's carved lines, and the large earring is found mutually. Photo: Correa 1943:371.

166. Limba woman, Sierra Leone, wearing a braid over her forehead resembling the line on D'mba's forehead. Photo: Thomas [1916] 1970, I: Pl. xvii.



167. Women constructing a house, Baga Sitemu, K'fen Village. A number of accounts and sketches confirm that Baga Sitemu women before the twentieth century wore simply a strand of beads at the loins, as opposed to the drapery of the Fulbe women. Drawing: Y. Pranishnikoff(Coffinieres de Nordeck 1886).

the tips (figs. 164-65). These lines often extended completely along the sides of the jaw, nearly reaching the mouth. As we have seen, these extensions are replicated on the head of Zigiren-Wonde. They may also be the source for the long lines inscribed on the sides of the face of D'mba. For lack of any other explanation, outsiders have usually interpreted these lines as scarification patterns. There is no identifiable source for them in Baga ornament or scarification, however, and there is no documentation of the Baga ever having used body markings more elaborate than the two strokes on each cheek that simply mark ethnicity. D'mba was also ornamented with large, colorful ear ornaments carved of wood, and with straw ornaments, resembling gold, inserted in holes bored through the central hair crest and through the nasal septum. Again, there is no history of this elaborate kind of ornamentation among Baga women. Immense circular earrings, however, were frequently worn by Fulbe women, and were sometimes attached to the ear in ways other than simply piercing the lobe (fig. 164). Fulbe women commonly wore other elaborate gold ornaments in the hair and through the nose. D'mba's dark cape may seem to the outsider a normal garment for a representation of an older woman, but it is not for the Baga, either today or in the past. Baga women today wear the kind of dress worn by most women along the West Coast of Africa, consisting of a lower wrapper and an upper blouse (fig. 246). All documentation before the early twentieth century indicates that Baga women's dress (at least among the Sitemu) used to be limited to a simple length of beaded strings wrapped around the loins (fig. 167). The Baga have no tradition of weaving cloth, and today buy either batik or tie-dyed cloth made by the neighboring Susu or prints imported from Europe. The Fulbe of the Fouta Djallon, however, do use and make cloth apparel extensively, and because the weather can sometimes be chilly in the mountains, women especially may be seen with a large piece of cloth wrapped around their upper bodies (fig. 168). If the Baga did once live in the Fouta Djallon and wore cloth there, we have no record of it, but if so it would have been curious for them to have abandoned it completely on the coast, which also has its seasons of cool nights. The issue of continuity in dress, in any case, is a thorny one when the chronology in question would span at least five centuries of change. For all their creative skills and their attention to visual delight, the Baga have never in documented history invested in the aesthetic modification of the body. The extravaganza in Baga sculpture and dance over the past several centuries is in stark contrast to the austerity of their corporal presentation. For the Baga, the human 178 CHAPTER VIII â&#x20AC;˘ FOUNDATIONS OF A NEW SOCIETY COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

body simply has not been the medium that it has been for the "pure Fulbe" (their term) woman of highest status. Yet the Baga do not identify either D'mba or Zigiren-Wonde as a Fulbe woman. Both represent an idealized Baga woman. The double marks on the cheeks indicate Baga ethnicity. The identity of an ancestral type who has given birth to generations of Baga children, nurturing them spiritually and physically, providing water and sustenance, and blessing the dead on their journey to the otherworld, can only be quintessentially Baga. All the same, the representation is clearly a Baga woman with some Fulbe female aspects. We would have to ask, then, why Fulbe aspects would contribute to a statement about the Baga woman,as conceived by Baga men. The resemblance of D'mba and Zigiren-Wonde to a Fulbe woman is especially intriguing in light of the antagonism that has characterized relations between the Baga and the Fulbe for their entire written and oral history. In this light, it is tempting to see the Baga fascination with the Fulbe in terms of the psychological syndrome of an "identification with the aggressor." Certainly the Baga and other groups would have reason to be awed by Fulbe power, given the alleged Fulbe ability to eject the Baga from the Fouta Djallon, their ultimate conquest of all the groups in the area, and their imposition of the greatest empire known to the region in modern history, the Fouta Djallon Alimamiate of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The adoption of Fulbe cosmetic style might be seen, then, as an emulation of the conventions of high status, and as an attempt by the Baga to associate themselves with a regional power. A better explanation might be found in D'mba's role as a model of unattainable perfection and as an object of adoration and desire. What symbols have been available to the Baga to represent these emotions in sculptural form? Even today, the Fulbe woman retains a considerable mystique in Guinea. She is seen as delicate, of relatively fair skin, elaborate coiffure, rich ornamentation, and comparative seclusion and inaccessibility (because of Islamic proscriptions). Her image is often used in Guinea as a marketing tool, to sell, for example, a brand of beauty cream (fig. 168). The Europeans too were fascinated by the Fulbe woman. A description by a French official at the turn of the century, though it may not reflect a fair ethnographic understanding, accurately documents the outsider's point of view: These people are very jealous and distrustful, and they carefully hide their women from strangers. The Fula [Fulbe] woman is, without question, the most beautiful in all of West Africa, and most pleasing, even from the point of view formed by the Europeans of beauty. She is very coquettish and is covered with bracelets, gilded beads, coral, and amber balls....she is marvelously malicious, quarrelsome, and idle to the maximum (Famechon 1900:178-79).

Beau* vitalite, sante





168. Advertisement for Africa Lait, a face cream. In many contexts the Fulbe woman represents an object of desire. Illustration: Horoya no. 136 (2 March 1985):6. Courtesy Horoya,the official newspaper of the Republic of Guinea.




Baga men are not infrequently heard to express a desire to marry a Fulbe woman. And Fulbe women are known, though rarely, to be among the wives of Baga men throughout the coast. This leads me back to the basic structure of both the D'mba and the ZigirenWonde headdresses. Both have legs that are grasped by the dancer and a female bust that is held above the dancer's head; both represent a married woman; and Zigiren-Wonde specifically refers to the woman as bride. It behooves us, then, to take another look at Baga marriage tradition. We have already compared the form of Zigiren-Wonde to the carrying of the new bride on the shoulders of the groom's brother (fig. 153). In the past, one of the most common forms of marriage among the Baga was one that the Baga Sitemu called kä-ban wii-ran, "seizing the woman." Under this accepted system (accepted by the Baga perpetrators at any rate), a man would choose a woman for marriage from another village—sometimes a Baga village, sometimes not. The man and the intended bride were usually familiar with each other, and were occasionally even lovers, but this was not required; it simply made the task easier. Essentially, it was a system of the theft of property. The brothers of the intended groom would go to the village of the intended bride and abduct her from her family. If she was already married, as was sometimes the case, she was stolen from her husband. Carried back to the village of the groom, she was wedded to him with all the fanfare normally accompanying a marriage (which among the Baga was considerable, lasting a week), and she was considered the legitimate wife of the man in question. Often, as might be expected, the offended village chose to fight the perpetrators, and this sometimes led to intervillage war. But the practice was widespread, and less offensive variations on the theme—elopement, for example—continue to the present day. This may explain why an image of a desirable yet somewhat inaccessible woman would be carried in dance by a young Baga man. All brides, even those freely given in marriage by their parents, were subjected to the wedding "abduction" in that the normal ceremony involved their being carried off by the groom's brother. The woman is seen as inherently inaccessible, obtainable only by theft. Fulbe women too could be wedded in this way, though the military power of Fulbe men made this option relatively unattainable. Perhaps the capture of Fulbe women's dress and adornment are enough to suggest metaphorically the capture of Fulbe women specifically, and more generally, the capture of the Fulbe. D'mba and Zigiren-Wonde in fact represented the unattainable. The beauty, goodness, and high comportment that were epitomized was beyond what any woman—or man—could be. As the representation of all the negative aspects to which humankind could descend, D'mba-da-Tshol was the proof. No one really plumbs the depths of the human condition as does D'mba-da-Tshol. No one can be as pure and selfless as D'mba. Neither the ultimate positive of D'mba and ZigirenWonde nor the ultimate negative of D'mba-da-Tshol could be attained. They could only be the object of hopes and dreams, or dread and nightmares. D'mba and Zigiren-Wonde were created by the Baga to perform a task. At its most basic level, this task was to entertain a people cut off from a mythical past and striving to fashion a new society and a unifying culture. At a deeper level, the invention of these female headdresses played upon the role of inaccessible and unattainable ideals in the cultivation of male desire and female ambition as positive forces for productivity, beauty, strength, good behavior, and the manipulation of a new environment. As inventions of the Baga mind, D'mba and Zigiren-Wonde stand for the possibilities of a new state of being, the aspirations of insubordinate youth, and, in the face of chronic outside oppression, a remarkable Baga belief in the extraordinary affecting power of their own creative genius.



169 (above left). Ceramic vessel for rice (ka-be). Baga Sitemu, Kawass Village, late nineteenth century. Marriage customs may help to explain the form of D'mba. Large rice containers were part of the dowry carried in the procession to the groom's home after the week-long wedding. Clay. H. 68. cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Frederick Lamp, Baltimore (BMA 1988.1431).

170 (above right). Marriage rice basket (kä-leka). Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village, mid-twentieth century. At marriage, where D'mba was the principal entertainment, the rice basket was given to the bride, who would give it an idiosyncratic signature pattern by the way she tied the lid. Reed, string. H. 55 cm. Collection Frederick Lamp, Baltimore.

171. Standing male and female D'mba figures. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth century. D'mba, as a cross-gendered, positive character, stood for a new state of being and new aspirations. Wood. Male: H. 67.5 cm. Female: H. 69 cm. Collection Fred and Rita Richman, Kings Point.








They are a people completeley primitive who deserve the interest of the missionaries.... Very industrious in nature, the Baga are not given to vandalism like their neighbors. —Bulletin de la Congration (XIX/XV 1898-99:324-25) The Baga Sitemu are the least backward and have been civilized by contact with our civilization; they easily allow themselves to gain by our customs and live voluntarily in the European manner. —Dr. Meo,"Les Bagas"(1919:343) The Baga live in peace, but they completely ignore our authority; in their villages, each family administrates itself; only the religious heads, whom we know not, have any influence, although if the administrator wishes to make himself heard, he knows not whom to address. —A. Demougeot, "Histoire du Nunez"(1938:273)

172. Drum (timba) supported by a horse. Baga Sitemu, probably Kleii Village, late nineteenth century. The horse, unknown in Bagaland, was a borrowed motif

In 1890, Tombo island, then just off the tip of the Kalum Peninsula but now a part of it, was a wooded haven for two villages of Baga fishermen (Conakry and Boulbine), one Susu village (Tombo), and three European merchants and their ethnic Kru employees. One street connected the German and French merchants and a footpath connected the villages (Madrolle 1895:244, Raimbault 1891:139-40, Bouteiller 1891:305, Voix VI,10,1930:3). Ten short years later the entire island was gridded with boulevards, a railroad was in place, and an iron bridge linked Tombo to the Peninsula. The island was now covered with the grand residences, hospitals, schools, and chapels of the Catholic church, a dozen government buildings, a public garden, and eighty-nine shops buying and selling everything imaginable. Merchants had been attracted from throughout Western Europe and West Africa: French, German, English, Belgian, Swiss, Portuguese, Wolof, Fulbe, Malinke, and many others (see Famechon 1900: maps, ff.). For the local Baga enveloped in this new colonial capital of Conakry, it must have been a time of astonishment. In this discussion of the colonial period we will attempt an examination of the modification of works of art that preexisted the period, to the extent that object collection and documentation permits. Unfortunately, we have insufficient documentation to examine in depth how the Baga or other African groups lived before the colonial period, but we must accept as fact that what we see now as African culture is not a timeless phenomenon but a very recent one., Consider, for example, the fact that when the French arrived, masquerade (a fundamental aspect of Baga religious belief) was rich and plentiful, and when they left, fifty years later, it was virtually gone. Certainly this is an example of revolutionary cultural change. Baga art and culture during this period can be understood only in the context of an increasingly active cross-current of many different ethnic backgrounds, both from within Africa and from outside.

inspired by the mounts of colonial officers, and endowed the elders' drum with a supernatural kind of authority. Wood, polychrome, rawhide. H. 132 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris (65-1-12).

The Establishment of European Suzerainty Throughout the nineteenth century, representatives of a number of European and American powers contested the coast of the Rivieres du Sud, as the French adminisCHAPTER IX • THE COLONIAL WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


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174. Bird headdress (a-Bamp/a-Bemp). Baga, early twentieth century. The bird masquerade, though an older tradition, continued to be performed by the young men together with newer, more fashionable masquerades. Wood, polychrome. H. 52. Collection Ernst Anspach, New York.

tration at Dakar called the free coast between Portuguese Bissau and English Freetown. The English followed the Portuguese to the Rio Pongo, sending the missionaries Brunton, Greig, Renner, and Hartwig in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. English merchants established themselves at Kakande, soon renamed Wakaria in honor of one Mr. Walker (d. 1845), and at Kanfarande, renamed Victoria. By the mid-nineteenth century the Rio Pongo was home to a number of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American families with names such as Curtis, Lightburn, Faber, and Emerson, who traded in numerous products, including slaves (Voix X,7, 1935:10, Riviere 1968:741-43). Anglican missionaries from Barbados had come to the Rio Pongo by 1851 (Bouteiller 1891:119-20). By 1891 it was reported that "of the Susu and the Baga,... All the indigenous people of the Rio Pongo speak English" (Bouteiller, p. 119-20). These missions continue to the present day. The French had established trading posts by the end of the eighteenth century, and through the mid-nineteenth could be found at Bel-Air and Wakaria on the Nunez. Although the area of the Baga Kalum and Koba had come under French treaties by the 1870s, a German merchant operated at the village of Boulbine, at present-day Conakry. The Germans entered into contesting treaties with the Susu king over the Baga Koba and Kalum, and in 1885 the German flag could be seen flying from their housetops (Bohn 1885:40-47, Madrolle 1895:208). French suzerainty over the region was built gradually from the middle to the end of the nineteenth century. The first town to be declared under the sole command of France was Boke, in 1849, and a military post was established there in 1866. In 1865 and 1866, treaties were made with the Nalu and the Landuma respectively, delimiting their territories. The Baga Kakissa were brought under French rule by a treaty of 1876 with the Susu King of the Rio Pongo,John Katty (Bulletin XII, 1879:553), and the Baga Koba and Kalum by a declaration to the English at Sierra Leone in 1877 and a treaty with the Susu King of Dubreka in 1884. By the 1880s there was a French trading post at the village of Conakry (Bouteiller 1891:305). In 1886, the French lieutenant Coffinieres de Nordeck traveled to most of the important villages of the Baga Sitemu, the Pukur, and the Buluiiits to sign treaties in which they submitted to the rule of the Nalu King Youra Towel, and thus to the French.



In December 1891, Noel Ballay was declared governor of the new colony of French Guinea. Now Conakry would begin to surpass Boke as the center of French commerce in the region. Boke's fall was further assured with the decree of 1891 that established French suzerainty over the Fouta Djallon, ending the payment of tribute to the Fulbe Alimamy by the Landuma king at Boke, and focusing Fouta Djallon interests on Conakry (Demougeot 1938:276-77). The definitive borders of the colony of Guinea were established by decree on August 1, 1899. A final adjustment, the reassignment of the Iles de Los from British to French rule, came in 1904. Attempts to control the Baga met with mixed reviews. When a head tax was imposed, in 1897, the administrator of the Nunez, a Mr. Milanini, was dispatched to explain it. Meeting a force of Baga woman who were bent on beating him to death, he formed a local police force, supplying weapons, and power, to a selected group of men. This seems to have offered some motivation to the Baga, but two years later the tax was still uncollected. The next French administrator, Labretoigne du Mazel, came traveling among the Baga from village to village, riding a horse. The Baga had never had horses, and indeed would have had little use for them, as there were, especially in the Sitemu area, no paths between villages that did not traverse the deep mud of both rice fields and the ubiquitous, crisscrossing inlets from the sea. It is not clear how the administrator circumvented these obstructions, but as a man of means, he presumably found a way. It was said that this was the first horse the Baga had seen, and that it "provoked a lively emotion"(Demougeot 1938:278). An agreement was soon reached on the payment of taxes. European entrepreneurs and companies operated throughout the Baga area, especially in the Sitemu region, throughout the colonial period. In 1886, Coffinieres de Nordeck noted the presence of fifteen European traders in Tolkotsh, their shops marked by a tattered white flag (p. 294). European shops were also found at Katako, among the Sitemu (Voix IV, 3, 1929:16). Five European companies operated at the Rio Pongo, serving the Kakissa and Koba, and by the end of the nineteenth century there were four in the Kalum area (Paroisse 1892:135; Suret-Canale 1970:109; Voix VI, 9, 1931:14 and VI, 10, 1931:4). The political claims of the French at the end of the nineteenth century had diminished the Anglican influence and eventually the English language was banned in 1891 (Bouteiller 1891:119-20). Meanwhile the first church of the French order of the Peres du Saint-Esprit in the Baga area had been built in 1878. Named SaintJoseph de Boffa, it was on the site of a chapel built two years earlier by agreement 175. Catholic mission, Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Saga Sitemu, Katako Village, as it appeared before national independence. From their station at Boke, opened in 1897, missionaries had established chapels throughout the Baga Sitemu area by 1910. Photo: anonymous missionary, c. 1930. Courtesy Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Paris.



with the reigning king, John Katty, in the then small village of Boffa, a Rio Pongo port for the inland Susu capital of Thia. Children were brought in to be educated in the catechism; several came from the families of Baga and Susu chiefs (Bulletin XII, 1879-88:547). In 1890, the Vicariat apostolique opened in Conakry. A second church was built in Boke in 1897, and by 1910 missions had opened throughout the villages of the Baga Sitemu, Kakissa, Koba, and Kalum, and also among the Buluiiits and Pukur (Bulletin XXVIII/XV, 1915-17:326; Figarol 1907-12:202-11; Voix VI, 10, 1931:3-4 and VI, 12, 1931:10, 14). Clearly, the introduction of Christianity from the start went hand in hand with the French establishment of government. In 1883, for example, after King Benoit Katty of the Rio Pongo attacked the French post at Boffa for protecting a man in the French service against a Susu soldier, the French commandant dispatched Pere Lutz "to use all his influence to appease the Blacks," and the king was persuaded to call off his men (Voix I, 5, 1926:10). At Sobane in 1926, after hostilities between the Susu and the Baga in which the French commandant from Boffa had intervened, the Catholic Father had this to say to his flock: Yes, my children... you are all brothers; call yourselves brothers: here there are no Susu, nor Baga, there are only the children of the same Father... of the same Father "who is in heaven," children of the same Mother... of the Mother "who is France"!(Bon 1927b:9). At Koba in the late nineteenth century, the Baga linked the Catholic church to several supposed French initiatives, including the forced installation of an unpopular chief (said to have been "bought" by the French) and the continual raiding of Baga villages by the Susu (subjects of a Catholic king). Hostilities were so intense that in around 1887, the Baga attacked the Catholic mission and the French administrative post at Boffa (Bulletin XIV/I 1887-88:344-49). The French Impact The impact of the French over-rule and of European mercantilism on the Baga was considerable, and cannot be adequately explored in this volume of art history. The French introduced the Baga not only to trade and a cash economy, but also to forced labor building roads, and (for some) to the world at large in World War I and II. In a thesis written during the postindependence Marxist period in Guinea, a Baga student suggested that these demands for labor took their toll on the genuine arts: Colonization, with its system of exploitation and oppression, its practice of deculturation and acculturation, blotted out the Baga culture. ... The introduction of money blunted the value of "There is prestige in sharing and not in amassing" in creating a certain individualism. European products bought with money, taxes paid with money, would lead the country person to work for himself rather than for the larger group. The raised level of taxes, the raised prices of merchandise, blunted the traditional mutual aid existing among the villagers. The obligatory supplying of rice, palm oil, the forced labor, the taxes, exhausted the country person and thus curbed the development of the craftsmen.... With colonization, one saw the foundering of the Saga treasury, the creative possibilities of a society suffocated (Blez Bangoura 1974:65).

176. Figure of a French officer. Baga, early twentieth century. A Saga artist has perceptively interpreted the French colonial interest in Africa in what is perhaps a sexual metaphor. Wood, black pigment. H. 112 cm.

On the other hand, the Baga became rather adept at depicting their European overseers in revealing ways. The bird headdress a-Bamp was modified by new imagery: in one example in the Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris, a colonial officer in his customary pith hat sits on a chair facing two women kneeling and offering their breasts, with two Baga colonial militia men standing guard; another apparently illustrates the confiscation of D'mba headdresses, showing on the back of the central bird figure a colonial officer in his pith hat, handling a model of

Musee d'Angouleme, France (34-797). Acquired 1934. 186 CHAPTER IX â&#x20AC;˘ THE COLONIAL WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

177. Bird headdress (a-Bamp/a-Bemp) with three figures, two birds, and one D'mba on back. Baga/Buluilits, early twentieth century. The bird headdress, vehicle of the youths, here documents the colonial confiscation of D'mba headdresses. Wood, polychrome. H.60 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, Paris (1963.153). Acquired 1931.

a D'mba headdress, and accompanied, again, by women offering their breasts (fig. 177). There is an intensity of feeling in this latter vignette, with the officer seeming to spring forward with excitement, while the women seem simply resigned. Large figures of European subjects were carved, probably for export, including one in the Musee d'Angouleme, France, that perfectly expresses the colonial intent as the Baga saw it: a colonial officer in a visored hat and a smart uniform with stripes across the chest and down the long pant legs; the officer displays an immense erection (fig. 176). The architecture of the colonial church and market seems to have interested the Baga, and its motifs appear early on ritual objects. Building styles introduced by European merchants by the end of the nineteenth century, first in the area of Boke, included the two-story structure and the clerestory; by the mid-twentieth century, a model of this kind of architecture had appeared as a wooden dance headdress used in northern Baga ceremonies, where it was borne by dancers with fiber costumes (fig. 178). The clerestory was adapted to the new style of one-story, mud-brick, rectangular homes that were replacing the traditional oval house of the Baga by the 1920s. The home of the current president du district at Tolkotsh (in which I occu-

178. Two house headdresses and one caryatid drum (a-ndef), Baga/Bulufiits. These headdresses from mid-century show the young people's interest in the architecture of the French colonial period, particularly that of the clerestory, used exclusively by merchants. Photo: Guinea 1965.



179. The home of Jean-Marie Camara, president du district Taigbe, Baga Sitemu, Tolkotsh Village. Built in 1930 of mud brick, this home was a departure from the traditional oval plan and incorporated the clerestory of colonial architecture, now common. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1992.

180. Residence Episcopal, Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Conakry. Colonnaded, two-story buildings erected in the early twentieth century by the Catholic Church would have been seen by visiting Baga from all regions. Photo: anonymous,c. 1930. Courtesy Les Peres du Saint-Esprit, Paris.

pied a room in 1992), built in 1930 of mud brick, and surfaced in concrete in 1950, is a good example (fig. 179). The colonnaded two-story residences of the Peres du Saint-Esprit at Conakry were of even greater interest. Conakry's first two-story building appeared in 1898, when a second floor containing four rooms was added to a one-story building erected the previous year (Bulletin XX/VII 1899-1900:282). The arched and columned two-story ecclesiastical architecture built soon afterward appears in two different ways on a giant timba drum used by the men in the kä-bere-Tshol initiation (fig. 181): it is rendered once as a two-dimensional motif, repeated four times, and again as a three-dimensional structure supporting the drum's upper structure. The form also appears on a Banda headdress (fig. 182), where stairs and arched colonnades are set on top of the face's forehead. This is likely a comment on the ambiguous benefits received from the new spiritual and economic connections, consistent with Banda iconography reflecting the varied and exciting environment in which the Baga find themselves.

181 (opposite page). Drum (timba) supported by four figures. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Bulufiits, early twentieth century. The forms of the colonnaded ecclesiastical buildings erected by the French are echoed here in two different motifs. Wood, hide, polychrome. H. 160 cm. Collection Jeffrey Swanson,Seattle.

The Undermining of Ritual To some extent, the French curtailed indigenous ritual activity. The most direct intervention came in the form of the institution of chieftaincy, a form of government foreign to the Baga (at least among the northern groups, where the gerontocracy was best documented). This undermined the authority of the council of elders. A quotation at the beginning of this chapter expresses the French frustration with the unfamiliar and mystical Baga gerontocracy.




For the most part, public masked dance was tolerated and perhaps even encouraged by some French with a fondness for exotic manifestations. The more restricted and sacred dances, however, especially those of the initiations held at night in the sacred groves, were generally discouraged (Chevrier 1906:374). By the 1930s the French had succeeded in breaking down the imperative of initiation for young men by providing for their circumcision by European medical doctors (Balez 1936a:7). Even so, at the village of Katako, among others, where the mission was strong, an initiation ceremony was held in 1933 and another in 1948. The Baga knew that their initiation procedure was under scrutiny, and sometimes tried to continue their system if only by ruse, as described by a Guinean Catholic cleric:

182 (opposite page). Mask (Banda/Kumbaruba). Nalu/Baga, late nineteenth century. The stairs and arched colonnades of the Catholic mission probably served as the model for the house depicted on the forehead of the headdress. Wood, polychrome. L. 160 cm. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Partial gift of Valerie Franklin, Los Angeles, and Purchase with exchange funds provided by Twenty-six Donors (BMA 1990.2).

A savage chant rose from the interior [of the sacred grove of initiation]; one heard the threats, the vociferation, the insults.... The mothers, sisters, and relatives began to scream....The tormenters resume, more furiously still; their sticks are broken, their rods undone—as if one had beaten powerfully and for long! They come back with new bludgeons, with fresh branches. The refrain of war is taken up again.... It is barbarous to the last word decide to see for myself and I am engulfed in the middle of a squad that again takes up the charge. The initiates are seated on their beds and do not know much about what is to happen to them. But their masters content themselves with beating tree trunks, the wood of the beds, the ground...."Jokers!" I say to my guide. "Yes," he responds, "these days, we only make a semblance of beating them, because we fear the Whites"(Kakande 1933:3). In 1948, the elders were forced to solicit the approval of the Catholic Fathers before initiation could take place, and then were allowed only a month for the ceremony, the time it took the circumcision wounds to heal. The Catholic priest at Katako wrote, I was advised by the Catholics that the old Bagas wanted to celebrate the festival of circumcision at the next full moon, and that they felt obliged to come ask the Father to leave to them, for the ceremonies, the children who attend the school, where we have approximately 130 students....In the morning, I see the old chiefs arriving from the forest. The one leading the band ... laid at my feet a cock and a bowl of white rice on which were placed some eggs.... [Baga elder:] We have come to find the Father, because we know now that it is the Fathers who have the power in this country. We no longer have power: it is they who have gained the power. The time has come for us to do the Baga custom in this country: we would like to conduct the circumcision of the children, but it is the Father who has the children now....I beg you to let us have the children.... [Father] But according to the custom, the elders hold the children a long time in the forest, often five or six months. They say to us that the parents would like to give their children; but it should not be forgotten that they have already given them to us for their education.... [Baga elder:] We do not want to interrupt the education of the children. The last time we celebrated these customs—it was in 1933—the children were left together: their teacher came and he would bring his blackboard and conduct the class. If there were prayers to be said, they would go to say them in a special location. We do not wish to revolt against the Father; we would like simply the permission of the Father....

183. Figure of a chief. Baga, early—mid-twentieth century. The Baga chieftaincy was a position imposed

[Father:] Very well, but I will say one thing to you. The things that were done fifty years ago or more—can they be done again in the same way? [He goes on to describe at length the beneficial changes that the French have brought.] OK,

by the colonial French. Wood, polychrome. H. 53.3 cm. National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Gift of Samuel Rubin (78-43-3).



this is what I propose, if they want to do the circumcision: that they can take the children; but as soon as they are healed, that is to say, at the end of one month or more, that they let them return to the Mission school. It will not be the parents who give their children individually, it will be the Mission that gives all its students (Milleville 1948:55-56). The Commodification and Objectification of Art Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the French administration had the effect of exposing artistic traditions across ethnic divisions, resulting in some cultural spread. On the French national holidays on November 11 (World War I Armistice Day) and July 14 (Bastille Day), the dancing of indigenous masks was de rigueur. Ironically, I never met an elder who had participated in these events who had the faintest idea what either of these days commemorated. Nevertheless, an elder at Tolkotsh described the Baga participation: Among the Baga customs, one would go for the "11 November" during the colonial period, at the demand of the white colonial commandant. He would choose the D'mba of Tolkotsh, because Tolkotsh was preeminent among Baga villages. All the Baga would go to the headquarters at Boke with this D'mba: Kaklentsh, Katako, Mara., Kawass, Katongoro, Kamsar, Tshalbonto, Mnar [Era], Mboten [M'bornl—all danced the same D'mba (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu 1987).

184. Standing female D'mba figure. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Bulufiits, late nineteenth—early twentieth century. Figures of D'mba were avidly collected without regard to ethnographic documentation. Wood. H.25.5 cm. Private collection.

More significantly, the French exported art wholesale to satisfy the burgeoning "primitive art" market in Paris. This created both a poverty of excellent objects for indigenous use and a cottage industry in artistic forgery. From the 1930s on, beginning with the planning for the Colonial Exposition of 1931, the French searched Bagaland insatiably for objects to send back to France. The Christian church was dedicated to the same end: the official organ of the Peres du Saint-Esprit, La Voix de Notre-Dame, published a series of articles from February through June 1930 entitled "L'art en Guinee,” concentrating on the types of objects to be found throughout the country, including prominently those of the Baga. Carl Kjersmeier reported a French bishop's account of regional administrators sending Guinean soldiers out to the villages to seize works of art, in which, however, the bishop claimed to have rescued an object for the Baga (1932:203). Adolphe Camara has described the manner of official coercion: When the villagers gathered in the courtyard of the village chief, the Commandant de Cercle delivered a speech, addressing his Baga interpreter: "Say to the chief that I have need of the D'mba which they danced on the 14th of July [Bastille Day]for my personal benefit." The interpreter relayed the will of the commandant to the chief of the village, who did not speak French. The words of the commandant were put into effect immediately. The village chief made an appeal to the people of the quartier owning the D'mba. The men of the quartier consulted among themselves, and immediately charged some people to go and take the quartier's D'mba, which was the principal art of the cultural community, for the Commandant de Cercle. This was deposed in the house of the chief without conditions or demands. No price was asked in exchange. The Commandant's guard was sent to take the work of art in his name, and he departed with the D'mba that he had requested. The chief loyally commanded all the Baga groups under his authority; he reported directly to the Commandant de Cercle of Boke. It was his responsibility to make sure the administrative power functioned suitably within his canton. Each year he was transported in a hammock from Katako to Boke to participate in the commemorative festivities of the national holidays of France.


The oppression of the colonial era did not go without resistance from the Baga. Stories abound of how foreigners and locals alike paid dearly for their disregard for indigenous ritual prohibitions. Landuma consultants at Kolabui recall a time when a new French administrator demanded to see all the masks, insisting on his demand even after being told that he could see all of them except the great Serpent, aMantsho-fia-Tshol. So they brought the Serpent headdress to the district headquarters at Boke, and as soon as he opened his window to look, he collapsed and died. A group of men who removed an a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol headdress and sold it to the French were all later killed by snakes. When a European came early in the century to the Baga Kalum village of Nongo to buy all their sacred things, all the new initiates died, even though their objects were taken by force and not by their own dereliction. To have refused orders from the French over-rulers would have been risky, but the Baga seem to have had some success (or so they feel) in a kind of spiritual revenge. Some resistance took the form of ritual dance. In Tolkotsh around 1932, young men responded to French coercion in an interesting way, as they now recall: they had been summoned by the French to donate their labor on a particular day when they had scheduled a ritual dance using a tall timba drum that they had just commissioned from a carver (see fig. 190). It was an immense drum, with D'mba figures at the base supporting the barrel. In response, they decided to call the drum "Sonto," meaning "Death" in the Susu language. They also decided to refuse to obey the order, and danced instead. For this they were jailed. They named their drum "Death" because they had decided they would rather die than not dance to their new timba.

185 (above left). Female dance headdress(D'mba). Baga Sitemu/Landuma/Nalu, earlyâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;mid-twentieth century. In the 1930s, French holidays began to be celebrated in the provincial headquarters, employing Baga masquerades at Boke and Boffa, and thus exposing Baga art to the surrounding ethnic groups. Alternative styles such as this may have developed among surrounding ethnic groups,such as the Nalu or Landuma,in adaptation of the Baga works. Wood. H. 121.5 cm. The Denver Art Museum 1956.16 (374 QA). 186 (above right). Mask with forward-curving horns and hair crest. Baga, late nineteenth century. All over Bagaland, numerous masks were collected with no provenance; many probably came from the southern Saga closest to Conakry and Boffa, where the supply was virtually depleted by the 1930s. Wood, raffia. H. 57 cm.(mask only). Museum fiir Volkerkunde, Vienna (118.658). Acquired 1923; collected by Oldenburg, 1901-13.



187. Standing female figure. Baga, late 19th century.

188. Standing female figure holding breasts. Baga,

Such figures were probably used on clan shrines, but

late 19th century. Naturalistic figures were collected by

their use ended so long ago that the people today have

the Europeans during the colonial period without use-

no recollection of it. Wood. Collection Edith Hafte;

ful documentation. Wood, black pigment. H.80 cm.


Private collection, The Netherlands.


Indigenous Movements In the nineteenth century, and perhaps for longer, the Nalu had put pressure on the northern Baga. They often attacked Baga Sitemu and Mandori villages and farms (Adolphe Kande Camara 1990:60, Paroisse 1896:435); the atrocities are still recounted in every village. Before the Nalu King Youra Towel's somewhat futile attempt to impose his law in 1861, the Baga may briefly have been "vassals" of the Nalu(Meo 1919:347). By the late nineteenth century the Nalu kings, aided by the incoming French protectors' recognition, dominated the Sitemu and Mandori(Meo 1919:360). Towel's son, crowned King Dinah Salifou in 1885 (fig. 191), was described by the French as "King of the Nalu and the Baga" (Coffinieres de Nordeck 1886:278). In some cases Baga retaliation against the Nalu is said to have involved the capture and enslavement of Nalu invaders and settlers. Parts of some Baga villages today are said to be inhabited by the descendants of these captured Nalu, although they are forbidden to speak of this publicly (see pp. 68-69). Their status is low, and their allotment of farmland is small; but they are otherwise fully integrated into Baga society and culture, including participation in ritual. To the outsider at least, no distinction is discernible. Many isolated Baga communities seem to have escaped significant contact with the Fulbe of the Fouta Djallon Alimamiate. Although both the Nalu and the Landuma were firmly under Fulbe suzerainty through the nineteenth century, and regularly paid the required tribute (Caillie 1830:150-51, Demougeot 1938:198, Meo 1919:347-48), sources from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries overwhelmingly describe a Baga population isolated from the power of the Fouta Djallon. According to Rene Caillie, "Their vicinity to the islands off the coast, and the facility with which they can transport themselves thither, may have prevented the alimamy of Fouta-Dhialon from disturbing their tranquility" (1830:162). Dr. Meo confirmed,"The Baga would always refuse to pay the 'Sagale' to the [Fulbe] Alimamies" (1919:347-48). A. Demougeot, writing a hundred years after Caillie, echoed his assessment that "protected by their forests and marshes, the Baga have succeeded in conserving their independence and the [Fulbe] have never been able to force them to pay tribute" (1938:198). Still, there were isolated skirmishes (Voix V, 12, 1930:7-11). The Fulbe have long mixed with the Baga each year after the rice harvest, toward the end of the dry season, when grazing lands have been depleted and the migrant Fulbe herders move their cattle to the coast to feed on the stubble that remains and to take advantage of the salt deposits. They make contracts for this right with each village chief, but conflicts occur with individual farmers when the contract is granted too early and farm work is not yet finished. By the turn of the century, many different African ethnic groups were beginning to congregate in the vicinity of the Saga, especially in places where French and other European settlers were conducting trade. The major towns of Boke, Boffa, and Dubreka had long attracted traders and their families from the Fulbe, Malinke, Susu, and Baga peoples. Boke was also home to groups of Mandinka, Nalu, and Fulacunda. And Conakry was already thoroughly cosmopolitan, with communities of Baga, Susu, Krio (from Freetown), Mmani, Malinke, Mende,Temne, Kru, Wolof, Fulbe, and others (Raimbault 1891:142, Bulletin XXVI/)(III 1911-12:756). Of all the indigenous Guinean groups that have impacted on the Baga over the past five centuries, the Susu have certainly left the deepest imprint, especially among the southern Saga subgroups early on and among the Baga Sitemu by the twentieth century. Reports from the mid-nineteenth century make it clear that the southern Baga subgroups were under the direct rule of Susu petty kings: the Kakissa under the kings at Thia, near the Rio Pongo, the Kalum and Koba under the kings at Dubreka. By the late nineteenth century the Susu had thoroughly infiltrated the Baga area, although specific Baga villages remained exclusive. In fact the Susu had taken political and commercial control, under the French, of the entire coast of what was by CHAPTER IX â&#x20AC;˘ THE COLONIAL WATERSHED



then the colony of French Guinea. In 1891,J. Bouteiller described them as the only inhabitants of the Conakry area (p. 127)—certainly not because there were no other ethnic groups on that peninsula and island, but most likely because they dominated and had subsumed the others politically. Susu chiefs also continued to rule the Baga Kakissa (Paroisse 1892:134) and the Baga Kalum (Niane and Kake 1984:61). Although the Koba retained their own chief at Taboria, they were said to be almost completely transformed into Susu (Paroisse 1896:433-34). The Landuma were said to be have mixed with the Susu to the extent that their indigenous ritual structure no longer held significant influence (Paroisse 1896:440). Elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast, the Susu had infiltrated all the Baga areas as far as the Rio Nunez. Their language had become almost universal in common usage.

189. Headdress depicting hammock transportation. Buluiiits, Monchon Village, early twentieth century. This headdress, found in the possession of a youth, may depict either a chief or a new bride being carried in a hammock. Wood, polychrome. H. 80 cm. Muse de l'Homme, Paris (33.40.23).

190 (opposite page). Drum (timba) supported by four D'mba figures. Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth century. Tolkotsh men tell of an incident when they refused to work for the French as they had scheduled a ritual dance to introduce a new timba drum supported by D'mba figures. Wood, hide, polychrome. H. 75 cm. Stichting Afrikacentrum, Cadier en Keer, Netherlands (AC 67.1.1). Acquired 1967.

"Susu-Ization" in Language and Culture Among the most pervasive Susu influences has been the revision of Baga toponymy. It was the Susu rather than the Baga who were in direct contact with the French officials, having long occupied the trading centers of Conakry, Dubreka, Boffa, and Boke. In consequence the Baga of today live under a dual toponymy: among themselves, they often use Baga place-names, but these names are seldom found on French maps. European documentation suggests that the Susu place names have been in use for centuries. For example, Benar (presumably a deformation of the Susu Binari) appears in the Portuguese literature and on maps of the seventeenth century instead of the Pukur name Era (Faro 1645:44, Coelho 1953:58, 205). Taigbe (meaning "Big Town" in Susu) appeared on nineteenth-century maps instead of the Baga name Tolkotsh, and Taidi ("Small Town" in Susu) for the Baga village of Tshalbonto was recorded by Coffinieres de Nordeck (1886:278, 284). A complete list of Baga villages appears with the map of the Baga coast in chapter II, with the equivalent Susu names. Although I use the indigenous Baga/Pukur/Buluiiits name in this text, the Susu names are more commonly found on maps and in other literature. In addition to taking the lead in the spread of Islam, the Susu cooperated with the colonial French powers in suppressing the indigenous Baga religion. Around the turn of the century, the Susu king at the Rio Pongo proposed to curtail the power of the "Simo," gaining the good graces of both the district administrator and the colonial governor (Arcin 1907:466). But when Andre Arcin questioned the Baga of the area on the effect of this, they ridiculed the idea, claiming that even the Susu king was obliged to take part in "Simo" activities. Apparently the local Susu had themselves become well assimilated to some aspects of the Baga ritual system. This was not to continue, however: in the twentieth century the Susu became the greatest oppressors of the Baga religious leadership. And French reports of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries refer continually to Susu military incursions against their neighbors, including the Baga of Kakissa and Koba—burning their villages, killing the men, and kidnapping women and children (e.g., Bulletin XII, 1879:551, 1887-88:347; Bon 1927b:9). One critical Susu contribution to Baga culture, according to all Baga consultants questioned on the subject, is the introduction of the initiation of young women into adulthood, including the procedure of genital mutilation. Very old consultants insisted that the initiation for young unmarried women was unheard of in their youth. Nevertheless, this custom has continued throughout the Baga subgroups from the early twentieth century to the present, and has been rather extensively described (see Schnell 1949). It has been adopted wholesale, including the initiation procedure and the coming-out ceremonies with the exhibition of the young women in all their finery (fig. 193). A Baga adaptation has been the use of masks and headdresses drawn from the initiations of the men and the older women (figs. 104-5). By the mid-twentieth century, many of Baga descent had been subsumed by the Susu ethnically and linguistically. The Baga Kakissa, although still registered in the census as Baga, "in fact have ceased to be: they have abandoned their religious


191. King Dinah Salifou, Nalu. The Nalu king, crowned in 1885, was initially supported by the French, and was given suzerainty over the Baga in return for his allegiance. Photo: anonymous,c. 1885. Courtesy the Phototheque, Muscle de l'Homme, Paris.

practices and know no other language than Susu:'our fathers were Baga, we are Susu'" (Paulme 1956:102). The Baga Kalum had assimilated in both language and religion by the early part of the century (Kjersmeier 1932:200-201); by mid-century Morris Houis could write that they could not be distinguished from the Susu, and that the youth of the Baga Koba too no longer spoke the Baga language (1950b:26-29). But the Bulunits and Landuma, Houis reported, made it a point of honor not to speak Susu, and Denise Paulme confirms that the Buluiiits had succeeded in avoiding outside domination (1956:101). Among the Sitemu, everyone we met understood Susu, and although adults and young children tended to speak Baga at home, the youth, many of whom worked and went to school with Susu peers, would alternate between Baga and Susu. But in the South, the loss of language is more extreme. In 1987, we found only one aged woman among the Baga Kalum who still spoke the Baga dialect, although there were said to be a "handful" of others, and some,such as her son, could understand her words but could not speak them. Most of the elders among the Baga Kakissa could speak the dialect, but none of the children and few of the young and middle-aged could. One wonders how Baga cultural practices may still distinguish the Kakissa and Kalum from their Susu neighbors, but with the campaigns of Islamization and later iconoclastic Marxism in the period of independence, the continuity of any Baga cultural aspects would be determined only by focused, intensive research. Clearly, some artistic identity continues, for example with the use by Baga Kalum youth of the masquerades of a-Bamp (the bird) and Sa-Sira-Ren (the maiden), which we shall explore in the final chapter. The question of why the Susu should o strongly have affected verbal communication in the Baga area requires a complex of answers. Probably foremost is the fact that most interchange between the different linguistic groups along the coast occurred in the marketplace, and many of the region's markets have been operated by the Susu since the sixteenth century. Andre Alvares de Almada reported in 1594 that the Susu and their subgroup the Putazes (Donelha 1977:271) were bringing Fulbe-made cotton garments, dye, gold, and arrows to the "Sapi" in the vicinity of Cape Verga (who could only have been Baga) in trade for salt (1964:68-70, 73). And Susu merchandising has continued for the past several centuries, from petty, itinerant trading in kola nuts and salt to the great open markets in the major Susu towns. In sharp contrast, the Baga even today have no markets, and apparently never did, as I mentioned in Chapter I. Whatever limited markets may be found in contemporary Baga villages are organized by the Susu: there is a small, weekly Susu market in the village of K'fen, for example; a single Susu man sells out of a folding box in the village of Tolkotsh; a single Fulbe family living in Katako sells incidentals such as matches and rock candy on a small table in front of their home. Otherwise there is absolutely no open commerce in a Baga village窶馬ot a peanut stand or a cigarette vendor. For larger needs, the Baga go to the major Susu markets. Historically, this would have encouraged the use of the Susu language in cross-ethnic exchange. Because of its preponderance, Susu was also the language chosen in the spread of Christianity, Islam, and the French colonial system. Catholic missionaries in Bagaland began their work at Boffa, a Susu town from which they reached out to the nearby Baga villages. They compiled several Susu dictionaries, and translated liturgy into Susu, which they used throughout. Most of the Muslim marabouts who traded up and down the coast were Susu, and Islamic instruction in holy literature and music was in the Susu language. In the region today, all the Muslim music lyrics not in Arabic are in Susu, and this is the only music permitted in heavily Islamic Baga villages. Finally, the area's French administrators were assigned to bases in the major Susu towns, such as Dubreka, Boffa, and the mixed town of Boke; although they themselves were little disposed to learn the language of their constituency, their retinues consisted of the local people, who happened to be primarily Susu. Thus Susu became, for the Baga, the language of prestige.


Islamic Inroads and European Observers Since their legendary flight from the Fulbe Muslims in the Fouta Djallon, through the nineteenth century, most Baga had little direct contact with Islam, owing to their isolation on the swamp islands of the coast. But Islam was nevertheless an increasingly powerful force in the region up to the beginnings of the French Protectorate, by 1900. In the early nineteenth century, an English visitor to the central and southern Baga areas reported, The only Mahomedans among the Baga's are the chiefs; but from their general conduct, I suspect, they are Pagans in their hearts; few of them can be said to be well versed in the Arabic.... The great respect which is paid to the Mandingo [Malinke] dress by all Africans, I should think, is the reason for the chiefs so frequently assuming it. Mahometanism appears to be making rapid strides (McLachlan 1821:9). Education of the young, sought by some coastal families, including the Baga, led generations of selected children to travel to Muslim communities inland. A longtime French resident of the coast in the nineteenth century reported, Throughout the region of the Southern Rivers [the coast of Guinea and northern Sierra Leone], in fact, the chiefs or important persons send their children to Fouta [Djallon], to be educated there; besides, with them, one or more Foulah [Fulbe] marabouts serve them as counselors, as secretaries, and, as I am told, as chaplains. Good taste requires that one imitate the Foulahs, and they are followed scrupulously (Paroisse 1896:439). I am pleased to note, on the progress that Islam has made among them,[that] it is true that their fervor is not great, and that, apart from some public practices, they absolutely neglect the prescriptions of the prophet (Paroisse 1892:134). Islam has been a dominant fact of life among the southern Baga dialect groups, the Kalum and Kakissa, since the early twentieth century. In 1898, Catholic missionaries reported that Islam did not exist among the Baga Kakissa (Bulletin XIX/)(V, 1898-1889:325); ten years later the French administrator of the Rio Pongo estimated that 25 percent of the Baga Kakissa were Muslim. In 1912 it was reported that the Baga Kalum had been infiltrated by the Muslim Susu, but had been little affected (Bulletin XXVI/XIII 1911-1912:756); in 1932 the Kalum were said to be "in the process of converting to Islam," and a chief remarked,"The Simo society has no power here anymore. We are too close to Conakry" (Kjersmeier 1932:200-201).

192. Comb with female figure. Baga, early twentieth century. The Fulbe coiffure shown here recalls the long contact between the Baga and the Fulbe, despite the refusal of the former to submit to the power of the latter. Wood, beads, string. H.28 cm. Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, Netherlands (233.19). Acquired 1970.

193. Young female initiates at their coming-out, Baga Koba,Taboria Village. Susu institutions, such as the female initiation into adulthood, gained critical advances among all the Saga during the colonial period. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1987.



194. Stool (do-tshom) with seat supported by seated female figure. Baga, mid-twentieth century. Stools with the figure of a female initiate wearing her cloth apron indicate the importance given the borrowed institution by the established gerontocracy. Wood, polychrome. H. 72.4 cm. Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama (1983.108).

In 1908 the Baga Koba,located between the Kalum and Kakissa, were estimated to be less than 4 percent Muslim (Bouys 1908:n.p.), possibly because of their isolated location away from major coastal landmarks, but probably also through the intervention of the French. A note published by the headquarters of the Peres du Saint-Esprit in Paris in 1907, however, recounted an episode that foreshadowed events to come later in mid-century: In the district of Koba, during the last months of 1906, the holy man Tibini Comora has set about preaching a doctrine of purification and enfranchisement. He had the ritual objects destroyed that were contrary to Muslim faith, burned down several villages, and mistreated the inhabitants. The proselytes ended up numbering in the thousands. One of our missionaries, Pere Caradec, fell victim to this attempt at an insurrection [and was killed]. ... 4000 men escorted [the Muslim holy man]; and Pere Caradec... was surrounded by a cordon of Muslims and entrapped inside his house for twenty-four hours. The country is in revolt. The small steamship Niger has gone to pick up this self-described prophet. ...the commissar has moved immediately to the house of a chief where the prophet was selling his prophecies. As soon as they could, two militia men leaped at him, and in the wink of an eye he was carried away....some disciples having been told to whip the chief of the militia with the stroke of a sword, the militia men let go a volley of fire, and the Muslim teachers were cut down.... The number of deaths is not known (Annales 1907:62-63). Southern Bagaland was regularly disturbed by Muslim zealots, who seem mainly to have originated farther inland, among the Malinke. A group of elders at Katema, among the Baga Koba, told our research team,"Around 1928 was the last time the boys' initiation was held. As soon as we built the mosque, the initiation ceased." Nevertheless, indigenous religious practices and thought seem to have persisted until mid-century. A chief of the Koba is quoted in 1950,"The Baga are like cow dung— dry on the exterior, but humid inside" (Houis 1950b:30). The Baga Kakissa and Kalum, however, had unreservedly embraced Islam by the 1950s, expending a great deal of time and money on the building of mosques. Their self-identity had changed as well: they now identified not as Baga, but as a new people—as Muslims. The disassociation of most Kakissa, Kalum, and even Koba from their heritage had been well established by the time we conducted field research among them in 1985 and 1986-87. When we showed photographs of Baga Sitemu art objects, the people would often say,"Oh,that's Baga," as if they themselves were not. Islamization came much later among the northern Baga groups than in the south. A statement submitted by "The Baga Youth" organization (composed mostly of Muslims) gives a good idea of the development of Islam in the Baga Sitemu villages, as seen by a segment of Baga society harboring considerable regret: Around the first decade of the twentieth century, a few children were sent to the Koranic school either in Nalu country or with the Peul or the Djakanke. Already within the Baga community could be counted several conversions to Islam. Without breaking off from the traditional beliefs, several men began to initiate the Muslim prayers. The students, on their return home, now formed the second generation of Muslims, which continued the work of Islamization in the community. With the support of the older Baga already having yielded, they came to open the first Koranic schools and to construct the first mosques in the Baga villages. In the face of this dizzying Islamic drive conducted by the sons of the country, measures of retaliation were taken by the religious leaders of the sacred forest. First, all the returning Islamic students were obliged to submit to the rigors of initiation or to leave the village, and they became the object of provo-


cations and profound vexations. As a consequence some fled. But at the very heart of the sacred tradition itself, a growing class of Muslim initiates began to torpedo any decisions taken against the Koranic members. Towards the 1950s, forty per cent of the young Baga already could recite the principal verses of the Koran. The voice of Islam already had blasted across all the Baga villages, and because of the tensions, no individual elder of the sacred forest now dared announce publicly his adoption of the "new religion." The stratum that had already acquiesced to Islam in order to avoid animosity now simply tried to reconcile Islam to the traditional practices ("The Baga Youth"). The Reassertion of Legitimate Control Earlier in the chapter we discussed the changes brought about through the imposition of French authority. With the French refusal to recognize the Baga system of rule by a council of elders, traditional structures of control were shattered. The French wanted an unambiguous chain of command, which a system of chieftaincy better served. As has always seemed the case, the youth have been eager to capitalize on the opportunity to usurp power, thus with the coming of colonial rule, young Baga men aligned themselves with the French in sufficient numbers to seize power as collaborators. The elders managed to sustain their position, however, retaining the allegiance of their people even while the new chiefs executed the wishes of the French commandants at Boke, Boffa, and Dubreka. Despite the colonial interdiction, disputes and social issues continued to be brought to and resolved by the council of elders. Ritual, the rubric under which much of Baga daily life falls, continued to be regulated by the elders and not by the chiefs. Certainly the regalia of the Baga patriarchs' ritual was severely diminished during the colonial period. D'mba disappeared from many Baga Sitemu villages; by the 1930s, very few masks at all remained in the southern Baga areas. The male initiation was greatly restricted because of the demands of Christian education. By mid century, nearly every major ethnographic museum in Europe, and hundreds of private European collections, held Baga ritual objects, and had, in effect, become the repositories of Baga cultural history. Yet the Baga elders were skillful in adapting to changing political conditions. The emergence of the horse in the sculpture of the patriarchy is an example of change at the highest ritual level. The horse appeared on two types of traditional sculpture: the timba drum and the stool. This introduction of the horse seems to date to the early 1920s, or perhaps before. The horse stool in the Pontificio Museo Missionaria Ethnologico in the Vatican was registered in 1924 (fig. 195); all the stools documented before this were supported by human figures or abstract forms (Coffinieres de Nordeck 1886:293 [fig. 115], and stool #78.49.1 in the Musee de l'Homme [fig. 116]). Horse-bearing examples of the large initiation drum called the timba date to the same period: the example in the Musee de l'Homme,from the Baga Koba, is inscribed "1924"; the two Baga Sitemu examples in the Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie were collected in 1928 (fig. 172) and 1931. Nearly every village of the Baga Sitemu had such a drum, and there are at least eight examples in museum collections. As discussed earlier, the Baga of the twentieth century were introduced to the horse with the coming of the mounted French commandant. Like this colonial officer, the elder with a stool in the form of a horse would command a symbol of invincibility. It is also not inconceivable that the Baga elders knew of(though probably had not seen) the horses of the Sofa warriors of Samori Toure, the great Manding leader who opposed the French and tried to build an empire in the interior coinciding with the buildup to the French colony. It may also be that the image of the mounted commandant conjured up another image by this time well-known to the Baga: the winged horse al-B'rak, said to have carried the prophet Mohammed to the sky. Perhaps it is pertinent that the elder was set upon his stool at death, dressed 202 CHAPTER IX â&#x20AC;˘ THE COLONIAL WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

in his best finery, to be dispatched to the spirit world (Chevrier 1906:371). The horses found carved as stools and drum supports are not winged so they would refer only obliquely to al-B'rak, if at all. Saddled and in most cases bridled, they are certainly a direct representation of the horses of earthly powers known personally to the Baga. Nevertheless, all these references to the horse imply a power of a supernatural kind. The timba was the drum of male initiation, the institution that first and foremost stood for the ranking of Baga men and the authority of the elders over all. It was the drum that called the rhythm to which the youths danced, both literally and figuratively, and its employment in the final ceremonies was meant to instill discipline. This discipline was handed down by the ancestors, of whom the elders were the earthly representatives. The initiation drum represented the most visible and enduring symbol of the patriarchy. Like the initiation itself, it belonged to the elders. With the visual support of the horse, the elders showed they were capable of appropriating the new symbols of power. Nevertheless, as the colonial period progressed, forces even larger than the colonial French began to transform Baga society. Ironically, the colonial experience undoubtedly set the stage for an Islamic conversion at the deepest levelsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;by shaking the foundations of Baga ritual society, and by nearly eradicating the material culture that supported it. 195. Stool (do-tshom). Baga, early twentieth century. Seen in the possession of French administrators, the horse was quickly adopted as a motif in the art of the Baga gerontocracy. Wood. H.80 cm. Pontificio Museo Missionario Ethnologico, Vatican City(AF 539). Acquired 1924.






The group of little boys grows up and becomes a tight circle in which the members identify with each other. Among them there is supreme camaraderie. In time, with continuous social contact, their cordiality intensifies, and progressively the agendas of their small world coincide. Beyond amusing themselves together, they create among themselves affectionate bonds which endure all their lives. They manifest these sentiments through mutual aid in the rice field ofa member's father-in-law at engagement, and by common participation in the unveiling ofa mask ofentertainment: a-Bemp, Sibondel, or Tiyambo. They consider themselves as devoted brothers. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Blez Bangoura, L'Education Traditionnelle... Baga Sitemu, 1974

Throughout the colonial period, a time of expanding opportunity as well as of repression and disorientation, the Baga youth demonstrated infinite moral, spiritual, and artistic resources. While some traditional forms of art and ritual suffered and others changed, a number of spectacular new dance costumes and headdresses emerged. All were said to have been either "invented" or patterned after a "discovery." All were created by young men, most likely in their early twenties. Some seem to have grown out of existing Baga sculptural traditions, sometimes in defiance of them, sometimes in mimicry. Others seem to reflect inspiration beyond Baga culture, in both European and other African forms introduced during colonial times through that period's considerable opportunities for travel to administrative centers where one could experience French culture and other African ethnic influences from within and without the borders of Guinea. The colonial era seems to have amplified the generational tension among the Baga: while the elders demonstrated an ability to adjust, ritually, in order to maintain a degree of control, the youth seized opportunities to gain an upper hand. However one views the benefits and detriments of the colonial period, there were clearly innovative people within Baga society and elsewhere who refused to be victimized but rose to the occasion and used the new circumstances to their culture's advantage. Some of the new forms that evolved in this new climate included a colossal, telescoping costume; a dancing hare bearing political figures; and an exotic pink lady. We begin with the colossus.

196. Dance of Sorsorne, Baga Sitemu. This telescoping masquerade is the invention of the youth, appearing dangerously similar to the highly prohibited supreme male spirit of the elders. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1987.

Sorsorne The essential feature of Sorsorne is a tall raffia dress. This garment is usually surmounted by a headdress in the form of a female bust with short vertical horns, but the headdress is not a constant. By one account we heard, elder men born around the turn of the century claim to have introduced Sorsorne in their youth, at Tolkotsh. Unlike all other inventions by Baga youth of this century, the songs of Sorsorne have no Susu lyrics, but are exclusively in Baga. The name Sorsorne itself is derived from the word some, meaning "to heighten." In the dance, the costumed figure first appears at somewhat above a man's normal height. Then it grows taller and taller throughout the performance, until it sometimes CHAPTER X â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


197. Dance of Sors8rne, Saga Sitemu. This is the masquerade in fig. 186 before rising up. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987

reaches the level of the branches of the full-grown coconut palm. The single male dancer beneath the raffia dress is said to hold a telescoping set of bamboo tubes by which he elevates the costume's top. But children don't know this, and are enthralled; and if the general public does know, that in no way diminishes the theatrical effect of seemingly supernatural transformation. Through an hour or so of movement, the figure moves up and down several times and circulates slowly around the village's central plaza, swaying back and forth. A group of young men always clusters around the costumed dancer, helping to steady the structure if necessary, and guiding his movements. A leader of this group speaks loudly to Sorsorne, exhorting him to "rise up, rise up": The woman who would see this spirit—if she couldn't have a baby, would have one. When the spirit wishes, it can be as tall as the sky. If it wishes, also, it can come as low as the ground. You see it seated now. It brought this palm wine that we are collecting now. Come down,come down.... Go up, go up. I want to see how tall you can go. The horned female bust that today often surmounts the costume is of a type we will explore later in this chapter, called Tiyambo. There are versions of Sorsorne, however, without this headdress, but only a set of horns—perhaps the secondary 206 CHAPTER X • SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION


essential element. No reference to Sorsorne appears in any published literature, and indeed not a single manuscript reference appears before 1990 outside my own field notes. A photograph taken in 1985 in Katako seems to be the earliest available. So we have no idea what was incorporated in early examples. As in the monologue quoted above, an association is made between Sorsome and the collecting of palm wine—always a task of the young men. In ritual, the young men must supply palm wine to the old men. One song links Sorsornes origin with the village of Kaklentsh, a major source of palm wine for the Baga Sitemu: Sorsorne—Go up, go down, Sorsorne Sorsorne—ma pe-o, ma tor-o Sorsorne Sorsorne, where do you come from? Sorsorne, ö de ma yefe-e You come from Kaklentsh. Kaklentsh ma yefe Kaklentsh As a masked spirit of the young men, Sorsorne naturally operates in a milieu of defiance and cheek. One of its most popular songs asserts a youthful in-your-face challenge to those who would attempt to enter their celebration unauthorized: Our sacred masked dance— If you want to see it You have to show your ass. Good grief!

a to-/om to-su ko ma fan pi kä naiik-e mane ma wure tondu pa Wink o—wololo

According to Vincent Bangoura (see cover photo), organizer of the dance group in Katako, Sorsorne was invented by the elders when they were young, and has been passed to the youth of today, with some breaks in tradition. The essential feature in his story is the creation of the ritual by the youth, the abandonment of this powerful tradition by the youth once they became adults (age grades did not transfer the ritual to succeeding grades), and the reinitiation of the tradition by successive generations of youths. Bangoura compares this history to that of the highest male and female spirits of the Baga, accessible only to fully initiated adults and under the control of the very eldest men:

198. Dance of Sorsome, Baga Sitemu. The essential feature of the telescoping masquerade headdress is the pair of horns; the female identity may remain implicit. Photo: Oumar Tall, 1987.

It was the old [generation] who created Sorsorne and they have entrusted it to the young, because they [the young] were not permitted to dance the aMantsho-tio-Pon, nor the a-Bol; it was reserved for the youth before being initiated to a-Mantsho-lio-Pon and to a-Bol.... Sorsorne is a sacred masked dance handed down from our forefathers. It was meant for the young people and it had a particular role. Each time it appeared, it rained heavily over the course of a year, there was a good harvest, the kola trees produced abundantly. The year was a year of abundance. The sterile women became fecund. But later they forgot Sorsorne; they abandoned it when they became occupied with a-Bol and a-Mantsho-tio-Pon and a-Mantsho-iia-Tshol. When they abandoned it, there was no longer a good harvest, the fecundity stopped, the kola trees no longer produced much. It was then that our Spirit [Sorsorne] went to consult our ancestor to demand what was happening....So the ancestor of the village called a meeting of all the citizens. When they had convened, he recounted to them what had come to pass.... One of them declared that they should all go to the stone where their ancestors conducted sacrifices, and divine with kola nuts, as they did.... He who had the kola tossed it in divination, and determined that the declaration of the elder was right and that the Spirit had spoken to him saying that because they had abandoned it, there was infertility of the land and sterility. Having seen and being satisfied with their discussion with the Spirit, they took the decision to go immediately to conduct the ritual of Sorsorne. That year, it rained heavily.... Since then, they never forgot Sorsorne until the coming of Asekou [the conversion to Islam in the 1950s]. CHAPTER X • SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


A third generation, led by Vincent Bangoura, took up the ritual of Sorsorne again in the 1980s, after the overthrow of the repressive government of Sekou Toure and the loosening of religious restrictions. But that period is the subject of the next chapter. It is interesting that Bangoura's text posits a generational tension between the followers of Sorsorne and those of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon. Those who dance Sorsorne may not dance a-Mantsho-ilo-Pon; those admitted to the circle of a-Mantsho-lio-Pon abandon Sorsorne. The key factor is generation. Each ritual is exclusive of the other. Uncannily, the figure of Sorsome in several respects resembles the figure of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon, the greatest sacred and prohibited male spirit of the elders. This is almost too frightening to contemplate, as the parody or unauthorized representation of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon is forbidden on pain of death (a threat that has been carried out in the past, if testimony is correct). No Baga consultant, young or old, would confirm this resemblance, yet the resemblance is clear. We saw the same sacrilege in our discussion of the masquerade of the little boys' age grade, and we see it here again with the youth. If the youth were asserting their defiance of the elders and their right to spiritual power, it is not surprising that they might appropriate existing imagery. Like a-Mantsho-flo-Pon, SorsOrne, at its height, is as tall as the palm tree, and has a huge, bleached costume of leaves. At its summit is not the avian head of a-Mantsho-rioPon (though that too may in some cases be horned) but horns sprouting from the head of a woman. A young man's introduction to a-Mantsho-iio-Pon, the culmination of his initiation into manhood, was a prerequisite to his right to take a young woman as his wife—the right to fulfill a young man's desire. Sorsome, then, replaces • the avian-headed colossus, the figure of patriarchal sanction, with a figure of legerdemain surmounted by an image of the object of desire itself, the young woman. Unlike a-Mantsho-fio-Pon, who is always monumental, Sorsorne occupies the realms of both the low and the grand, and enters one or the other on the will of the young man dancing. It is thus a usurper of traditional power to which it is not entitled, yet it holds this power in defiance, through the institutionalized right of the young to subversion. While the elders have legitimate control, the youth have power by virtue of their willingness to rise up and seize it, by virtue of their desire. During the colonial period as before it, this youthful seizure of power was engrained in the Baga social system. Sibondel Sibondel is a headdress featuring the head of a hare. Its body takes the form of a box, open end down, on top of which appears an ensemble of figures. The box, then, serves as a sort of miniature stage, and is used to present a play with a cast of human and animal characters. The costume of Sibondel is made just as those of a-Bamp (the bird headdress) and Sa-Sira-Ren (the female bust headdress): a large piece of bamboo is made into a conical substructure, all but one small end of it being slit into thin strips and flared outward. The intact end remains as a bamboo tube into which is inserted a pole that projects down from underneath the box that forms the headdress. The conical structure is hung with raffia that extends to the dancer's calves, and the top of the costume is covered with cloth panels. Around the base of the headdress's wooden frame is attached a short cloth, a skirt that hangs over the joint between the headdress and the costume. I have described this headdress in detail in a previous article (Lamp 1996). Here it remains necessary to summarize some of the background contributing to my central argument—that Sibondel reflects a response to Manding hegemony by the Baga youth. Certain key facts stand out. The "invention" of Sibondel is credited to the Baga Koba sculptor Kanfori Kinson, probably before 1935. It was seen among the Koba by a young Baga Sitemu man, Bokari Keita (a Manding name), who 208 CHAPTER X • SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION


199. Hare headdress with figures (Sibondel). Baga Sitemu, K'fen Village, Debesre Quarter,ca. 1970. The invention of Sibondel corresponded with the intensification of Islamic proselytizing in the south by Malinke and Susu missionaries. Wood, polychrome. H. 71 cm. Collection Frederick Lamp, Baltimore.

introduced it to the Sitemu, first at Katongoro (the first Baga Sitemu village where a whole quartier accepted Islam communally). By the late 1930s the headdress was also documented at the Buluiiits village of Monchon. Carved from the wood of the silk cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra), the Sibondel headdress is constructed of separately carved pieces.(1) A box frame is constructed out of four rectangular boards cut from the tree's massive weblike buttresses. (2) The head of the hare, fitted with long ears, is carved with a long neck that ends in an unfinished block of wood carved at an angle to the neck. This block is fitted inside the box and nailed to the front and back boards so that the hare's head fits into a hole cut in the top center of the front board.(3) Another board is placed horizontally over this block, and just inside the box's top, to serve as a stage for the figures.(4) Each figure is carved separately and nailed to the stage.(5) Cut-out designs are attached around the top edge of the box frame.(6) Into the bottom of the unfinished block inside the box frame is inserted a vertical pole approximately 30 centimeters long. This in turn will be inserted into the bamboo receiver that the dancer wears on top of his head. Throughout the surfaces of the boards and cut-out designs, the sculptor carves relief shapes as decoration. These are painted in bright colors, using imported enamel, against the white background of the flat surfaces. All the figures and the hare's head are also painted in brilliant colors. Before sending the headdress into a dance performance, the entire surface is rubbed with palm oil to make it glisten. Sibondel is principally danced on the first evening of wedding festivities, but it may appear for any celebration, especially during full moon in the dry season. It may appear alone or it may dance together with, or alternately with, other Sibondel masqueraders, and with the female bust masqueraders Tiyambo, Yonbofissa, and Signal (to be discussed below). The performance normally takes place after dark, although any of the headdresses mentioned may be danced by day to celebrate the CHAPTER X â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


200. Dance of Sibondel, Baga Sitemu. The dance occurs principally at marriages, but also at many public celebrations. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

arrival of a dignitary (for example, a visiting art historian). The location is generally a central plaza where there is a broad expanse of sand, often near the chief's house, where dignitaries can be seated and there is plenty of standing space around the periphery. Like other semisacred headdresses, that of Sibondel, when not in dance, is stored not in a sacred grove or sacred house but in the bedroom of one of the young men who is charged with its care. Throughout the Sitemu villages, the movements in Sibondel's dance are nearly identical. The performance begins with a counterclockwise dance by the figure's young male assistants, one holding a torch of burning grasses. An orchestra of drummers beating a small square drum called the si-ko has already set the meter of triple beats. The songs are in the Susu language, as they have been composed by Baga youth, who generally speak Susu. There are no lyrics in the Baga dialects. The men carry branches of leaves, as in other dances, and wave them in the air. Sibondel enters the arena from behind a house and swiftly circles the perimeter, almost grazing the crowd. The dancer's steps follow the beats of the drummers, while he holds his body at an invariable height, so that he appears to be floating. Coming abruptly to a halt, he hoists the headdress above his head, to which the crowd responds with cheers, rushing toward it in the center of the circle. Continuing its dance, Sibondel circles again, occasionally flicking out some raffia on its right side with the hand, occasionally twirling slowly and then continuing its counterclockwise


tour, sometimes leaning perilously out toward the crowd, as if in a centrifugal spin. The dance among the Bulufiits was similar to that of the Baga Sitemu, with some variation. Most significantly, the drumbeat follows four beats to the measure. The dancer continuously blows on a whistle throughout the dance. Women dance up to Sibondel, toss their head-ties in the air, return to the circle's periphery, and tie their head-ties again. Two men circle the space continuously, stepping two beats with one foot, one beat with the other foot, and holding for one beat. One of them blows short blasts on a metal trumpet. Here Sibondel generally follows the movements of its Baga Sitemu counterpart, but may also stand in place, rotating left and right with short jerks, or may rotate in a small circle, facing the same direction. The hare is a standard figure in West African oral narratives, appearing among all the groups in the region, including the Malinke (Arcin 1907:471-73), the Susu (Damba 1931), the Temne (Thomas 1970 vol. 111:72-74), and the Baga (Gomez 1929). The hare represents a devious character, a clever manipulator, a slick operator, a twister and turner (see Lamp 1996). But he is just as often a victim of injustice, and he uses his cunning to get out of tight spots. Among the Manding especially, the hare represents the position of the "younger brother." Manding social structure codifies the opposition between elder and younger: If a senior position is occupied by a person with weak or bad disposition, then an individual occupying a junior position but possessing the qualities ideally associated with the senior position has the right to take over. ... When the capable subordinate takes over the position held by a corrupt or inept status superior, the discrepancy between social position and personal disposition is made good (Jackson 1982:93). The form of the Baga Sibondel headdress strongly recalls, in miniature, a Manding puppet performance called, in Maninka, Sobojan (Tall game [wild animal]) (fig. 201). To the front of a large, square bamboo box covered with cloths is attached the head of an animalâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a bird, a bush buffalo, or perhaps a giraffe. The box acts as a stage for puppets; the men manipulating the puppets are inside the box, which they can move, as part of the performance. They and the drummers and singers accompanying them are generally in their twenties, and belong to a village youth association (similar to that of the Baga) responsible for public works and for entertainment. Another Malinke masquerade, Saga Dyigi (Noble ram), is somewhat similar in form. This is a large costume in the form of a cubic wooden understructure covered

201. Puppet performance, Bamana, Mali. The Sibonda headdress resembles, in miniature, the puppet stage found among various Manding groups, with its animal head on the front and figures inside the top. Photo: Susan Vogel, 1986.



202. Hare headdress with figures (Sibondel). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. The hare is a figure of defiance throughout the region, corresponding to the defiance of the Baga youth. Wood, polychrome. H. 66 cm. The Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala (P1987.14).

with straw and cloth, from which protrudes a carved wooden ram's head. In some regions, figures of human-divine couples, birds, crocodiles, and turtle doves may appear on the creature's back. Although sacred in inspiration, Saga Dyigi is danced at public occasions, and is attended by the youth (Dieterlen and Cisse 1978). I have found no documentation to prove direct borrowing, but the forms of the Baga Sibondel and the Malinke Sobojan and Saga Dyigi are so similar, if on different scales, that it is hard to believe in a completely independent creation on the part of the Baga. And there are other twentieth-century Baga headdresses that also show some affinity with Manding headdresses, for example the Baga Signal and the Malinke/Bamana Yayoroba female busts, discussed later in this chapter. The headdress consisting of a box containing characters is seen in no other context in the area, including the festival of Fanal, celebrated from Dakar to Freetown, where immense paper headdresses are paraded. The Baga are widely separated from Malinke territory by the Susu, the Landuma, and the Fulbe. In the early twentieth century, however, the Malinke were becoming the dominant political and Islamic force, and as trade focused on Conakry they were moving increasingly toward the coast. Large numbers already occupied the town of Kindia, just a hundred kilometers inland from Conakry, and they were also present in the capital city itself. No documentation, however, is available to indicate that the transplanted Malinke brought with them their masquerades and puppet performances. If the Baga were exposed to Malinke ritual traditions (a kind of contact presupposing a community of Malinke rather than individual itinerants), it would seem most profitable to posit visits by Baga, individually or in small groups, to the Malinke area. This was in fact quite possible by 1914, when the railroad from Conakry to Kankan was completed (Guinee 1931:82-83). Even more likely is the possibility that young Baga Koba men were conscripted to work on the railroad's construction, which began in 1900 on the nearby Conakry-Dubreka route. We have no information on the lives of these unfortunate workers, but between 1908 and 1914 they spent some of their best years in Malinke territory, building the right-ofway from Mamou to Kankan. In all that time, it would be unlikely that they 212 CHAPTER X â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION


witnessed none of their youthful Malinke compatriots' amusements. Of course the creator, Kinson, of Baga Koba, is no longer with us to ask. We have little information on the content of either the puppet masquerade among the Manding or the figural representation in the Sibondel frame before the mid1940s. For the moment, I have restricted the discussion to what we know of the early Sibondel as it was conceived and executed during the colonial period, with some reference to the rising tide of Malinke political currency as a backdrop. In the next chapter we shall see the development of the Sibondel miniature theater as Malinke ambitions sweep the nation. Female Bust Headdresses: Tiyambo, Yonbofissa, Signal In the 1930s, the creation of a number of headdresses in the form of a young woman with long or elaborately dressed hair resulted from one particular event. This event is celebrated by men now in their later years as the quintessential usurpation of the power of the elders. And it was in overt defiance of the secret code of the elders that these female-bust headdresses were made. They are the secret of the elders laid bare. Before recounting the event, I will first give a description of the creations. All the headdresses seem to be variations on the central theme of a young woman, probably of European inspiration, for the face and bust are almost always painted pink or red. The coiffure is distinctively handled, either (1) with real African hair applied (fig. 204), or with long straight black hair; or (2) carved from the wood to represent close African braiding (fig. 203), the double (fore and aft), high, armatured crests of the Fulbe woman, or a series of separate arching braids sometimes resembling serpents (fig. 205). In some cases, especially with the braids, two short horns (or, rarely, one horn), bent backward at the middle, sprout from the top of the head. Some examples have arms, the hands usually touching the tips of the breasts, though sometimes each one holds a goblet. Others are armless. Sometimes carved fish or fish tails are attached at the waist or on top of the head. Around the neck is usually a tight necklace with one or more diamond-shaped, heart-shaped, or square pendants. On each cheek is always the scarification of two vertical lines, indicating that, despite the hair and pigmentation, the lady is Baga. Often a carved strap crisscrosses the chest between the breasts and runs around the back, where carved packets are attached. Sometimes real cowrie shells may ornament the hair, and metal earrings the ears. The figure generally ends at the waist, which is marked by several carved rings. Beneath the bust's flat bottom is carved a cylindrical peg, which fits into a bamboo receiver worn on top of the dancer's head, in the manner we have seen for all twentieth-century headdresses. The costume, constructed over an armature, consists of a cloth-and-raffia dress identical in pattern and structure to that used for the Sa-Sira-Ren headdress discussed in a previous chapter and to the Sibondel headdress discussed above. Again, the effect is of a monumental woman with a billowing skirt (fig. 209). These headdresses go by three different names, although the Baga are not always clear on which is which: Tiyambo (meaning unknown), Signal (pronounced, as in French, "sinyal"), and Yonbo or Yonbofissa (said to mean "Lots of Hair" or "Beautiful Hair," perhaps in Susu, although dictionaries have not confirmed this). Each seems to embody a cluster of attributes. Tiyambo is the name usually given to the genre as a whole. Yonbofissa is often ascribed to those busts with long straight hair, and without horns, but also seems to be used interchangeably with Tiyambo. Signal is the name usually given to the bust with the multicolored hair crests, which may resemble or actually be carved as serpents. The Sitemu claim to have originated these headdresses, and they seem to be unknown elsewhere, although some documentary and stylistic evidence suggests that Tiyambo was also used among the Baga Koba. The examples in museums were generally collected in the 1960s. The carver Salo Baki, of Katako, told us he was

203. Female bust headdress with horns(Tiyambo). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. Tiyambo is a spirit of the ancestral world, stolen by the youths from their elders. Wood, polychrome. H.56 cm. Collection William Brill, New York.



204. Female bust headdress (Yonbofissa). Saga Sitemu/Kakissa, early twentieth century. A number of female headdresses were invented during the colonial period, and represent new ideals of beauty. Wood, polychrome, human hair. H.47 cm. Private collection.

carving the Yonbofissa bust in his youth, in the late 1940s or early 1950s, having seen it carved by an older artist. Beatrice Appia referred to Yonbofissa in 1938 as an "apparition... although the elders know of it only from hearsay." This suggests that its physical manifestation as a dance headdress had not yet been achieved, as her informants, from Monchon, would have seen any dances done by the Baga Sitemu, with whom they had constant social and ritual interchange. Bohumil Holas claimed that the Tiyambo (misspelled as Tiyamba) was created in 1946 at Katako, but he gave no details (1947:65). Stories vary of how the Tiyambo headdress came to be, but the central theme is that of the young Baga rebel who spies on an event of the elders and sees a forbidden female spirit. The elders are holding a dance in which each is masked. The young man decides to infiltrate the gathering, and goes disguised as a dog. Returning to the village, he describes the female spirit to a friend, who carves an image of it. With the complicity of the other young men, he introduces a public dance performance using the image as a headdress. This infuriates the elders, but they have lost control of the spirit, and must resign themselves to the impudence of youth. The young man and his friend are identified as real people: the interloper was one Ambra Bangoura, his friend the carver was Abdulai Bangoura, and the village where the first dance took place was Katako. The place where the young man discovered the female spirit was by the sea at Kamsar, and it is said that there is still a hole in the ground there where the elders' event took place and the spirit could be found. The fact that Tiyambo emerged from a hole in the ground suggests that she is somehow related to the ancestors, or perhaps is to be seen as an ancestor herself. In fact she is the only physically manifested spirit of the Baga who is said to have originated in the ground. The Baga word for the world of the ancestors is da-bia, literally "in the hole." This poses an intriguing position for Tiyambo, and the possibility of a new way for the Baga to look at their ancestors and at the spiritual world and its physical manifestation. By the mid-twentieth century, the Islamization of the Baga was well underway, and opinion, particularly among young people exposed to Islamic principles, would have tended toward a disdain for godlike ephemeral spirits in favor of ancestral spirits more compatible with Islam, as has been demonstrated elsewhere in Africa (Trimingham 1959:118). Yonbofissa, though manifested by a bust often identified as Tiyambo, is probably not the spirit discovered by Ambra Bangoura. She seems to be more a Baga variation on the theme personified elsewhere as Mami Wata (Mother Water), a figure known throughout West Africa. Like Mami Wata, she is said to live in the sea, and to appear on its surface from time to time. Children at Monchon told Appia in 1938 that Yonbofissa was a mermaid who appeared especially at the Fatala River, which flows into the Rio Pongo inland from Boffa. There, at a violent current, she may appear in a boat carrying passengers, and no one may speak, on pain of capsizing. If all are silent, she will make the wind favorable, and all will be safe. People also begged Yonbofissa for beautiful daughters (1943:155-58). Tiyambo and her variations may dance singly, in pairs, or with other headdresses such as Sibondel. The dance normally occurs at night, accompanied by young men carrying straw torches while other young men beat a rhythm on the square si-ko box drums. The occasion is most often a marriage, but it can be any time of celebration, such as the conclusion of a harvest, or the visit of a government minister or of an American art historian and his entourage. A dance of Tiyambo was held in a Sitemu village in 1987 at the request of my interpreter, to celebrate the coming of our team and to demonstrate it for the benefit of our research. First, a woman carrying a canoe paddle, and making the movements of paddling, danced around the interior of the circle of spectators. Throughout the event this woman would occasionally return to perform her mime. Next two female headdresses identified as Tiyambo and Signal performed a dance with movements similar to that of the bird headdress a-Bamp. Sometimes they occupied the space


: '

205 (above left). Female bust headdress (Signal), Baga Sitemu. Pronounced "Sinyal," as in French, Signal always has three colorful hair crests resembling serpents. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.

206 (above, right). Female bust headdress with horns or hare ears (Tiyambo). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. Wood, polychrome. H. 86.5 cm. Collection Leonard and Judith Kahan, New York.

207 (right). Female bust headdress (Yonbofissa). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. Yonbofissa is a tempting female spirit from the sea who dispenses riches and welfare to those who placate her. Wood, polychrome, cloth. H. 49 cm. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Gift of Evelyn A. and William B. Jaffe, Class of 1964.


simultaneously, sometimes they alternated. Young men and boys attended them, and in interludes between the costumed dances these attendants would dance in a counterclockwise circle in the center of the ring, carrying small clusters of leaves in their hands. This example of Signal bore the personal name Osea, and Tiyambo bore the name Apollo. At a second village, in a performance for our benefit in 1987, Signal was danced simultaneously with two Sibondel headdresses (fig. 209). Carved by the late, and extraordinary, contemporary carver Koumbassa, the headdress at its introduction in the village was given the personal name Sayon Camara, in honor of a woman of the village. The three costumed dancers drifted alternately around the perimeter of the circle, sometimes milling together. When I returned to this same village in 1992,I witnessed a nighttime performance during the celebrations of a marriage. Purely by coincidence, the event took place on Good Friday evening. After a number of celebratory dances by the women of the bride's quartier, the dance of Signal began at approximately nine P.M. First, torches were lit by touching bundles of grass to a central fire, and the young men began their dance in a counterclockwise circle. After some time, Signal appeared and

208a-b. Winged female bust headdress (Tiyambo). Baga, mid-twentieth century. This idiosyncratic example with wings may represent one artist's conception of the spirit or may reveal a hidden attribute. Wood, polychrome. H. 104 cm. Private collection.



209 (opposite page). Dance of Signal with two Sibondels, Baga Sitemu. Carver of Signal: Koumbassa, Mara. Carver of the two Sibondels: Fidel Bangoura, Katako. The headdresses are given personal names; in this case, Signal is "Sayon Camara," in honor of a woman of the village. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

danced, generally circling the perimeter, and alternating with the circular dance of the young men. This lasted for about half an hour. A similar bust headdress was later danced at night for a wedding at a third village—the home village of the groom, as usual. The dance was performed by the young male relatives of the bride, who had brought her from a neighboring village. The dance was similar to that of the previous village. Sekou Beka Bangoura gives an idea of how a female bust headdress is naugurated, and how it is given a personal name: Before the decision is taken to make the headdress, a woman in the village is chosen in advance and informed that the mask will bear her name and that she will be its godmother. This woman must fulfill certain conditions, especially of a material nature, when the choice falls upon her. She must be in a position to underwrite expenses necessary to bringing out the mask: to supply clean rice, oil, a sheep or goat, large fish, and condiments. In addition to this material preparation, the godmother must compose a song which she will dedicate to the mask. In gathering at the site where the headdress is to be made, the young men fortify themselves, equally sharing the provisions. On their return to the village, they go directly to the house of the godmother, who, during these hours, has waited impatiently to receive the headdress. She then takes up the song which she has composed, and begins the dance. She anoints the body of the headdress with oil and throws some grains of rice on the dancers. From quartier to quartier the costumed dancer advances, following the girls and the women. There is a great atmosphere of gaiety throughout the village, where everyone's heart beats in unison. Song lyrics for Tiyambo may seem arbitrary and enigmatic, but they often have to do with family matters, women's roles, and sometimes with nationalist interests. They are sung by the women. As with many of the young people's songs, they are often in the Susu language, but not exclusively. Of those that I have translated from the Baga, one celebrates the repulsion of the Portuguese invasion from Guinea-Bissau in 1970 (nationally celebrated with a monument in Conakry as the Republic of Guinea's great defeat of "the imperialists," and one of Sekou Toure's proudest moments): Mamadou Bah, did you hear what is happening in Conakry I am coming. Hey, all my mother's kin Take up your load, I am coming.

momodu ba, mo nente puii-kule konakri mo kii-der k'in de'-e e-e ya ña iiaye lekan kote kä-der k'in de'-e

Some have to do with morality: You know how to steal. You can take a picture. You know how to tell lies. You know about witchcraft. Sorrowful, Old Man Sera, the ridiculous one.

mune) tsbere ki-kiye muno tsbere ki-foto muno tsbere ki-yeme muno tsbere ki-seiire wololo papa sera kalbanti[Susu]

One has to do with the role of the husband in childbirth, reminding him to give gifts to the midwives: Good day, Brother. Good day, my mother's son. Don't you understand 218 CHAPTER X • SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

taw mi yi no wan ka iya mi yi nO ma ne fente

210 (top left). Female bust headdress with horns (Tiyambo). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. The female bust headdress is usually danced at night, accompanied by torches that accentuate the red image against the darkness. Wood, polychrome. H. 62 cm. Collection Frederick Lamp, Baltimore.

211 (top right). Female bust headdress (Signal). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. Wood, polychrome. H. 91.5 cm. Collection Dr. and Mrs. Jacques S. Gansler, McLean, Virginia.

212 (bottom left). Female equestrian figure. Baga Koba, mid-twentieth century. Wood, polychrome, fiber. H. 88 cm. Collection Sidney L. Shaper, New York. 213 (bottom right). Female equestrian figure with hare ears. Baga, mid-twentieth century. This puzzling combination of appropriated forms possibly makes a political statement of youthful subversion. Wood, polychrome, hair. H. 82.5 cm. Collection Gene L. Isaacson, Huntington Beach, California. 220 CHAPTER X â&#x20AC;˘ SPIRITS OF DEFIANCE AND REINVENTION COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

what they are saying? Oh God, they are about to give birth. Oh God, give us some kola.

iia loku mo e ala, ku-kom kb ?la n der e ala, ma son su tshola

As with most Baga ritual and arts, the meaning that the Baga take from the forms is largely lost on the outsider, and much more research needs to be done. Some of the relevance of the song lyrics, I'm afraid, will always be elusive to the non-Baga. We can only faintly grasp a sense of what has obviously been extremely significant to the Baga youth for many decades. Oddly, again, this Baga sculptural form, especially the bust masquerade in the form of Signal, closely resembles a masquerade appearing among the distant Malinke and Bamana (fig. 215). Like Signal, a particular Malinke/Bamana bust is carved with the three-crested coiffure painted in bright colors, with similarly salient breasts, and a body generally painted pink. This is the character Yayoroba (the big mother), who appears in puppet performances of the Malinke and other groups along the Niger River. Other female figures also appear, including some representing foreigners, such as the Fulbe woman. A Baga variation on Yonbofissa or Tiyambo is a full female figure mounted on a horse (figs. 212, 213). A wooden peg projecting downward from the bottom indicates that these too were worn as dance headdresses. Stylistically the horses resemble the horse on the base of the large timba drum from the Baga Koba, now in the Musee de l'Homme (#33.40.90) and inscribed with the date 1924. These equestrian female figures are puzzling if one reads them literally, as the Baga did not own horses and Baga women certainly did not ride them. Perhaps this too was a political statement: if the youths had not signaled clearly enough their intention to seize the reins of power by the appropriation of the spirit Tiyambo, they did so by mounting her on a horse, the borrowed sign of ultimate control.

214(above left). Female bust headdress with horn (Tiyambo). Baga Sitemu, mid-twentieth century. Wood, polychrome. H. 78 cm. Musee des Arts d'Afrique et d'Oceanie, Paris (66-18-2). Acquired 1966.

215 (above right). Dance of Yayoroba, Bamana, Mali. The Baga female bust headdresses closely resemble this and other headdresses of the Manding groups to the east. Photo: Pascal James Imperato, 1971.





IN RESERVE 1955-1985

In the entire history of the Baga there has been no greater disruption than that which occurred within the memory of many living today, in the mid-twentieth century. This brief but traumatic era saw a modern-day Islamic jihad, the thorough overturn of traditional power, the dissolution of virtually all religious structures, the abrupt departure of the French, and the coming of "independent" rule in the new Republic of Guinea. Baga art now was subverted to a national agenda led by the inland Malinke, and came to coexist delicately with Islam, through the ingenuity of innovative Baga cultural and artistic leaders. It is through the study of this period that we come to understand the Baga as they are today. The period may be defined as 1955-85, beginning with the final Islamic campaign against the traditionalists among the Baga Koba and Sitemu subgroups (the last to embrace Islam), continuing through the coming of independence and the reign of Sekou Toure, and ending with his death, the overthrow of the Parti Democratique de Guinee, and the ensuing governmental reform. As we have seen, by the 1950s the southern Baga subgroups of the Kalum and Kakissa had universally converted to Islam, and most of the northern Baga villages had abandoned many of their indigenous religious and artistic conventions and had seen most of their youth converted to Islam. Comments by observers both within and outside Baga society give a clear impression of a beginning of an end in the struggle between those holding traditional power and those gaining power through Islamic alliances. Few elements of pre-Islamic Baga ritual seem to have persisted: The last initiation of young men at Era was in 1950 (elder, Christian, Pukur, 1986). I was in the last initiation that took place at Tolkotsh in 1952 (middle-aged man, Christian, Sitemu, 1992). In [Era] since 1953 the Nimba [D'mba] would no longer be danced. The last Nimba was sold in Bamako the previous year (Dauer 1978:10). I saw a-Bol for the last time at Katako in 1954. And since then I never saw it again (middle-aged man, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). 216. Asekou Sayon during his Islamic jihad, among the Baga Sitemu, Mareii Village. The crowd of youths with their teacher surrounds the booty of sacred objects confiscated during the campaign.

Probably because of the influence of Islamic zealots who have been active in the region, with the dance of the elekal [Tshol] having been prohibited for several years by the chief of Monchon, the role of these relics appears no longer to be important (Paulme 1958:408-9, writing of 1954).



By the mid 1950s Baga society was in turmoil, its ancient structures having been battered down, with no consensus reached on its future religious and political direction. Denise Paulme described the situation she found in Monchon when she spent two months there in 1954: Pressed from every side, Baga society appeared to be torn to pieces: village chiefs against canton chief, family against family, youth against the elders, these latter intractable, everyone exhausted from the battles for prestige where every new incident reignites quarrels poorly extinguished. Virtually no authority had succeeded, except that one time the administration named a foreigner as chief of the canton, without agreement among the notables. More and more numerous are the young men who abandon their village for a nearby urban environment, where they hope to escape all control. Those who remain marry strangers, convert to Islam, and reject their former identity (1956:101). The Islamic Revolution Most Baga today trace the coming of Islam and the conversion of the Baga to one unforgettable moment: the final, disastrous disruption of Baga culture that occurred just before independence, in 1954-57. That was when two Muslim missionaries, Asekou Sayon and Asekou Bokari, of Malinke and Susu origin respectively, entered Baga territory in the districts of Boffa and Boke, and literally destroyed whatever was left of ritual life. How could this have happened? By the early 1950s, anticipating the coming of independence in October 1958, the Parti Democratique de Guinee (PDG), headed by Sekou Toure (the councilor from the Cercle of Beyla in the Assemblie Territoriale), had become the dominant power in Guinea, and seems to have already developed strategies for the country's religious transformation. Whether or not the PDG deliberately dispatched the two Asekous to Baga country or whether these two karamokos simply seized the opportunity to fill an impending power vacuum, there is a clear sentiment that they had the PDG's backing. In this sense the time was as ripe as it possibly could have been for them to carry out their jihad. From 1956 on, the Catholic Church had a peculiar role to play not only in maintaining itself against the tide of Islamization but also in providing something of a buffer for the Baga. In Katako, for example, the coming of the Muslim zealots drove many Baga to the Catholic mission for refuge, and many became Christians to escape Muslim coercion. The church was then a small open pavilion (fig. 175); the large new church that exists today was built at that time as a direct result of the congregation's sudden growth. The Islamic campaign was rehearsed, apparently without much success, in Sierra Leone, among the Limba and Temne (Ramon Sarro, personal communication, 1994). There a Muslim holy man from the Malinke of Guinea, known then by the name Fanta Modou, honed his skills in a political climate less conducive to his objectives, where the leading political power was not identified with Islam. His campaign had so little effect that no one seems to remember it today, other than the marabout himself. In 1954-55, the same Fanta Modou claimed to have been sent by the prophet Mohammed to the Baga Koba. He is well remembered by the people there. Elders at Basenge recalled,"He used to sit in a dark room and make visitors come to greet him crawling on all fours." Audaciously attacking the traditional practices and their high practitioners, he penetrated the sacred forests, confiscated the masks, and exposed them publicly to the villagers, with ridicule and curses. Elders at Tenene recall that he "came here and took all our ritual items." Having sacked the village, he would order the crowd to assemble, where he would lead prayers. Key to his success was the devotion of Islamic neophytes already found among the villagers. These students surrounded him and acted as his hosts and his cohorts. Little ritual sculpture and masking had actually remained in use beyond the 1930s, and what 224 CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED


was extant by mid-century was all but gone by the time Fanta Modou's campaign ended, in 1955. It was apparently after this campaign that Fanta Modou assumed a new name, Asekou Sayon, under which he would achieve his greatest infamy, or success, as the viewer may see it. The northern Baga approach no subject with greater emotional vigor, and a greater desire to be finally heard, than that of the coming of Asekou Sayon and Asekou Bokari, in 1956-57. A note of clarification is in order here, as both these karamokos operated under aliases, and the Baga, outside writers, and I myself have been severely confused over the identity of the Muslim missionaries at any one site and at any one moment in this saga. Asekou Sayon, as mentioned above, was Fanta Modou, although he has also been identified by some Baga as Asekou Fanta Madhi, the name of a great Sufi holy man from Kankan. Asekou Bokari was an alias for Asekou Abdulai, of Susu origin, who took on (and Susu-ized) the name of his Malinke master, Asekou Bakari Kourris(Ramon Sarro, personal communication, 1995). The fortune tellers in Faranah [a Malinke town in Upper Guinea] had told Sekou Toure that if he wanted to gain power, he had to destroy all the traditional religions from the coast to the forest area. The "karamoko," the teacher, was Asekou Bakari [Kourris]. Asekou Sayon and the others were "talibi," students of the karamoko (the late Donat Bangoura,former chief of Katako District, c. 80 years old, Christian, Sitemu, 1996). Asekou Sayon's team had the backing of the PDG,the party of Sekou Tour& Toure had already abolished the Native Administration (elder, Bugo4 Sitemu, 1986). Toward the year 1956 the karamokos, sustained by the youth, organized a common battle front against the traditionalists. At the same time, a great Islamic karamoko emerged, known under the pseudonym of Asekou Koure Sinka [Asekou Bakari Kourris]. This man, who took up the task of Islamizing all the animist villages, sent his disciples, Asekou Bokari and Asekou Sayon, to the Rio Pongo. There, the Karamokos of the various Baga villages seized the occasion and sent a letter of invitation to Asekou Sayon to conduct a jihad in their community ("The Baga Youth"). At Katongoro and Kaklentsh, the chiefs were very powerful. They got guns and were able to prevent Asekou Sayon from coming....I didn't approve of the coming of Asekou Sayon. Asekou Sayon started at Bukor; then he went to Kalktshe, then to Mareri, then to K'fen, and then to Katako. I had gone to Mardi to protest Asekou Sayon's coming without my knowledge. But the chief of Mareri said that the chairman of the PDG at Mareri had invited Asekou Sayon and he wasn't consulted. I called a meeting of all the Baga town chiefs and warned them that I didn't want Asekou Sayon in my chiefdom. But the leaders of the PDG didn't want to listen because they associated the chiefs with colonialism. I went to Boke to warn the French colonial administrator, Commandant Kelkomar, that there would be an insurrection in the Baga area (Donat Bangoura). For weapons,they had nothing but their lances and their talibas [students]. Their success is explained not completely by the force of their personality, still less by their understanding of the Holy Book, the Koran. They found that the Baga had already established the conditions favorable to change. Indeed, the several Baga children who had been sent to the Koranic schools had attempted to change religious matters upon their return to their home villages, but without success. It was these who then welcomed the two marabouts, aided by the Susu. The favorable reaction to Islam is explained also by the fact that the young men and young women,for long held in terror by the elders and obliged

217. Standing female and male D'mba figures. Baga Sitemu, Mareii Village, late nineteenth century. Since these two figures were collected from the Baga, they have undergone the complete restoration of each nose and base. The same figures, before restoration, can be seen in the field photograph with Asekou Sayon (fig. 216),lower right. Wood. H.86 cm.(both). National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Gift of Samuel Rubin (78.14.4 female),(78.14.5 male). Collected by Jacqueline and Maurice Nicaud, 1957. CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED



to make offerings to them, had had enough of the Baga divinities. In the view of these young people, the Baga system was based essentially upon the exploitation of the society by the elders. Thus the Baga community was a society in crisis at the moment of the arrival in 1956 of the two marabouts. Only the elders, seeing themselves losing their privileges, were unhappy with the arrival in Baga country of Asekou Sayon and Karamoko Asekou Bokari (Sekou Beka Bangoura). Asekou Sayon came with a big crowd of followers—thousands.... Asekou Sayon would collect all the ruffians of one village and move with them to the next village to plunder it. He would collect information on a village before moving to it, and when he arrived with his mob he could zero in on all the sacred sites, sacred objects, and the people responsible (elder, Bugor, Sitemu, 1986). We had a tall cotton tree here when Asekou Sayon came and he made us cut it down. He made us cut down all the forests to denude the area as it is now—to strip it of sacred groves (elder, Tshalbonto, Sitemu, 1986). They captured the elders as soon as they entered the village. They would strip them in public and tie them up....If anyone objected, he would be locked up. I myself was locked up for defending my father with a stick when they wanted to strip him naked and tie him up. When they stripped an old man,they would tie him up and make him sit in the hot sun all day (elder, Bukor, Sitemu, 1986). Several individuals who had been denounced were placed in the sun and put at the disposition of the young women, who dragged them on the ground, across the village, chanting their songs of victory. Some of the persons subjected to these tortures, flagellations, and injuries in public died shortly thereafter. The day after their arrival, they would seize the art works and the masks, which they sold for their profit; others which they found noxious were burned. As a consequence their name was feared. The next morning, aside of the fence, one could see the objects that had been abandoned and exposed to the public and burned, all of this reinforcing the power and the reputation of the two marabouts (Adolphe Camara). By 1956, it was clear to the French that they would be giving up their colony. Anticipating their final pullout in 1958, they began to collect together whatever

218. Helene Leloup (formerly Kamer)and an aide loading sacred objects onto a vehicle for transport to the capital. Some known objects can be seen here, such as the D'mba in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Cologne, and the Serpent being lifted, now in the collection of Armand Bartos, New York. Photo: 1956,courtesy Leloup Gallery, Paris. 226 CHAPTER XI • THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

The Confiscation ofSacred Objects The almost total depletion of the Baga treasury of ritual objects in the years 1956-57 is clear from testimony from many persons in the Baga villages as well as from the photograph (fig. 216) of Asekou Sayon taken in Mardi, showing some extremely important ritual items such as shrine figures, a-Tshol, the men's drums, and so forth. One ofthe greatest treasures that Asekou Sayon was able to wrest from secret storage was the head ofthe highest spirit (fig. 42), Pantshaman,from the village of M'born, a seizure that had far-reaching and disastrous consequences for the family at M'born that was in charge of the head's maintenance. This is the testimony on what was lost throughout the northern area in the villages indicated: December 1956 was the last time we had D'mba—then Asekou Sayon came and confiscated it (Tolkotsh).

We had D'mba until 1956. It was taken by Asekou Sayon (Bukor).

afraid, so we got rid ofall our sacred things (Dobali, Baga Mandori).

1956 was the last time D'mba was danced in Katako (Katako).

Our am-Bantsho (a-Mansho-iia-Tshol] was sold around 1956. Several people were killed for this. All the people who sold this have been killed. We also had the headdress called Tabakan, but it was confiscated during the time ofSekou Toure(Landuma at Kolabui).

The D'mba of Kakontsra quartier was the most important(in Tolkotsh]. We had it until the arrival of Asekou Sayon—he had it burned (Tolkotsh). Since the passage ofAsekou Sayon, the dance ofD'mba came to an end. Elsewhere in general, it was in that year that all the customs ceased to exist.... Yes, it had to have been he who took (the D'mba of Kagbenene quartier] because,I have to say, since the passage ofAsekou Sayon I never saw the D'mba again (Tolkotsh). We had D'mba until 1956, when someone came to buy it—we had heard about Asekou Sayon coming and we were

Since [the ancestors created it] they never forgot Sorsorne until the arrival of Asekou Sayon (Katako). I began my initiation, but I did not complete it. I knew how it should begin and how it should end; but all that came to an end in favor ofthe Muslim religion. It was on the tenth of October, 1956, that the business of Tambui and Boglansh (the two versions ofthe highest male spirit] came to an end in our district(Pukur at Era).

items of value they could. The items of highest value, of course, were the objects of ritual art. As the Muslim missionaries and their rabble crowd were looting the Baga villages of their treasures, French collectors and dealers in antiquities and arts were traveling in their wake, in pickup trucks, to haul the booty away (fig. 218). From there it was shipped to Paris, to be distributed to the museums and private collections of the world. Eventually the excesses of the Muslim karamokos began to erode their power base among the Baga, and it became possible for some courageous Baga leaders to bring an end to the horror. In 1986 the late Donat Bangoura, the former district chief of Katako, recalled some steps taken: I invited the French colonial magistrate and commandant to come and witness things here—I dressed them as Lebanese with long gowns to disguise them. And I threatened to jail the town chief of Katako. Then the most important [local] PDG leaders were called to Boke to explain their actions. Asekou Sayon was also called to Boke, because he was collecting money from everyone; Asekou Sayon denied it, but the French had witnessed it in secret. So Asekou Sayon and the two other marabouts were jailed in Boke. I then flew to Conakry to inform the governor. Asekou Sayon had ordered the destruction of huge forests and religious sites. The governor told me to bring the Department of Forests to assess the damage, but by October 2, 1958, independence arrived and the Native Administration was abolished, so there was no way to continue the investigation. New Forms in Masquerade Despite the negative effects of the Islamic revolution, including the forced conversion of the traditionalists, and especially the abuse of the elderly, which can never be justified, quite an interesting set of traditions has grown under its shade that testifies to the ability of the Baga to manipulate the vagaries of their lot. The "invention" of a new, colorful headdress, the revision of an earlier one, and a whole new complex of dance, music, and patronage are the result of innovation on the part of the Baga youth and some especially perceptive artistic leaders. These two headdresses have helped the Baga to bridge the dreadful gap between a magnificently rich past and the CHAPTER XI • THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED



options of the present. They form a story of the negotiation of a very treacherous political passage. With the demise of ritual performance by the elder savants and their prohibitively sacred masks and costumes, the young people began to take charge of public celebration. Forms that seem to have continued through this period are the headdresses of Sibondel, a-Bamp, Yonbofissa, Signal, Tiyambo, and possibly, in the south, the more traditional female headdresses of Zigiren-Wande and Sa-Sira-Ren. As new ideas were fomented, new artistic forms arose.

219. Bird headdress (a-Bamp/a-Bemp). Baga/Nalu, early mid-twentieth century. Less sacred dance headdresses such as a-Bamp continued somewhat in use through the Islamic revolution. Wood, polychrome. H.58.4 cm. Collection William Brill, New York.

Al-B'rak In the mid-1950s, with Islam already entrenched in the northern Baga area, and a jihad on the horizon led by Malinke and Susu Muslim missionaries, a variation on the Sibondel form was invented by the Sitemu carver Salo Baki Bangoura. Salo Baki had begun as a carver of wooden tools, having learned from his father. Later he would carve dance headdresses such as Banda, a-Bemp (a-Bamp), and Sibondel, as well as female figures. Around 1954, Salo Baki hit upon an idea, after seeing an image in a newspaper of "al-B'rak." This is the winged horse (pictured with the head of a woman with long hair) that carried the prophet Mohammed miraculously through the air from Mecca to Jerusalem, from which he then ascended to heaven on the holy night of Miraj, and later returned to Mecca (fig. 222). Significantly, al-B'rak's role in the seventh century was to deliver the prophet from the climate of persecution that he found in his home town of Mecca. The Baga, too, were under severe duress in the mid-1950s, as witnessed above by Denise Paulme. Salo Baki carved a dance headdress of al-B'rak (he gave the year as 1955 in our interviews, but Paulme gave me a photograph she took of him holding an al-B'rak headdress when she visited Katako in 1954—although she did not know what or whom she was photographing — fig. 220). In an interview in 1992, Salo Baki reminisced about the experience of his invention: I was able to carve anything. Even in seeing something for the first time, I could carve it: people, birds. Al-B'rak is from me—it is from my initiative. The Sibondel was all the rage at the time, and, as for me,I tried to introduce something different from Sibondel. I imitated the Sibondel with modifications and I gave it the name al-B'rak.... Al-B'rak is my final work.... I was inspired by a photo to carve the al-B'rak, because there was a certain spirit of competition among the Baga sculptors, and I wanted to outclass my compatriot sculptors. The animal possessed wings in the photo I saw. In carving it, I brought modifications into my work, for example suppressing the wings. Salo Baki's horse's head was transformed into the head of a Baga man, as is evident from the two small Baga scarification marks on the cheeks. The addition of a Muslim cap common to the Malinke appealed to a self-image that modern young Baga men found palatable. Originally, Salo Baki simply carved the human-headed horse with wings, but no box frame; he added the frame later. On the top of the body of al-B'rak he carved vertical striped wings. From the back of the box frame he attached a long flat tail resembling a horse's tail upraised. And from the back of the Muslim cap he extended another long flat tail. On some examples he carved miniature al-B'raks to flank the central figure. Other figures found on or within the box frame on various examples of the headdress include small birds and male and female figures. Salo Baki's son, Fidel, was a teenager at the time, and was attending primary school at the Catholic mission in Katako. One of the things Fidel was learning in school was to draw with templates, especially the protractor. Salo Saki borrowed this technique to sculpt and paint designs on the sides of the box frame of al-B'rak. He applied the same technique to the ongoing production of the Sibondel headdress,


later copied by other carvers. The first al-B'rak that Salo Baki carved, he believes (after seeing a photo I brought), is now in the collection of the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, at the University of California, Los Angeles (fig. 221). It was given the name Ta Bangoura, in honor of the wife of the then District Chief. New steps were created for al-B'rak, and new songs were invented by various people. These forms, however, were closely based upon those of Sibondel. A dancer, Fode Bangali, was chosen to dance the new headdress because he was already an accomplished dancer of Sibondel. Now, a group had to be found to patronize and sponsor the new masquerade. Salo Baki's own quartier, Kagbinifi, had never owned a Sibondel, but the other two quartiers of the village had. The people of Kasinki quartier had both Sibondel and a-Bemp, and readily accepted the al-B'rak as something fresh and exciting. It may also be pertinent that it was in the Kasinki guarder that the central mosque of Katako was built, while Salo Baki's quartier, Kagbinifi, was the site of the Catholic mission. Salo Baki remembers (fig. 225), It was a grand festival in the village of Katako that day. We all came from [the other quartiers] to gather at Kasinki. The whole village was jubilant. That was the day of its inauguration. As for the songs, that was the work reserved for the women.[Salo Bald begins singing.] I was saturated with inspiration to carve. The Baga youth closely associate al-B'rak with the avant-gardeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;on one example carved in 1990 (fig. 223), the letters "RTG" are painted on the front and rear panels, referring to the state (and only) broadcasting company, Radio-Television Guineenne, and symbolizing the very latest in technology in a village that has few transistor radios and no televisions. One might say that in its capacity as entertainment and moral instruction, al-B'rak is the popular media. Sibondel and al-B'rak came into use most widely among the Baga Sitemu, and are also known among the neighboring Landuma and Bulufiits. Sibondel apparently fell out of use quickly among the Baga Koba. Some consultants there asserted that alB'rak was invented there in 1949 by one Brima Sayon (not a Baga name, but Susu) after he saw an image in the newspaper, just as Salo Baki claims to have done in the mid-1950s. The Koba do not today dance the al-B'rak, and one does not know whether their al-B'rak resembled that of Salo Baki, as no examples seem to be extant. Many of the Koba recognized the two headdresses when I showed them photographs, but they attributed them to the Bulufiits at Monchon. The Bulufiits, while still dancing both headdress types, attribute their origin to the Sitemu. Today they constitute one of the principal expressions of the youth among the Baga Sitemu and the Bulufiits. One of the most active sculptors of the Sibondel and al-B'rak headdresses in the 1980s was Salo Baki's son, Fidel (see fig. 209). Salo Baki Bangoura, the inventor, died in Katako on November 28, 1993. Sibondel and Its Role in the New Society Let us return for a moment to the Sibondel headdress that was discussed in detail in the previous chapter, and, in so doing, move to the events following the Islamic revolution and the postindependence era of the 1960s and 1970s. I reintroduce the Sibondel in connection with the Islamic watershed not as an invention of the watershed but because the elements that define the headdress today seem to have developed hand-in-hand with the establishment of Islam as the national religion and the ascendancy of the Malinke as the predominant national power in the independent Republic of Guinea. We know little about the early form of the Sibondel until several years before the Islamic Revolution among the Baga Koba. We do know that the basic form was and is a rectangular box, open on the bottom, with a hare head on the front; the slightly inset top-surface of the box serves as a stage for groups of figures, and the entire headdress is fancifully decorated with designs and painted in vivid colors. CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED



220. Salo Baki, carver, with his al-B'rak headdress, Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. Salo Baki invented the headdress depicting the winged horse of the Prophet Mohammed around the time this photograph was taken. Photo: Denise PauIme, 1954.

221 (above right). Winged horse headdress (al-B'rak). Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. Carver: Salo Baki, ca. 1954. Shown this photograph, Salo Baki claimed that this was his first al-B'rak headdress. Wood, polychrome. L. 110 cm. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, Gift of Helen and Dr. Robert Kuhn (LX83-5, a-b).

222. Poster depicting al-B'rak on the wall of a Baga Sitemu house, Tolkotsh Village. The image of al-B'rak in a newspaper inspired Salo Baki to design the headdress of the same name. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

In the previous chapter I suggested that the form of Sibondel was so close to the form of the Malinke puppet stage, if only in extremely miniaturized form, that it is hard to believe that there is not some connection. Indeed the similarities to Malinke form only begin here. Characters appearing in these Malinke puppet performances include various animals, as well as human stereotypes such as the man,the big mother, the old man,the girl, the colonial officer, and others. All the examples of the Baga Sibondel extant today were almost certainly carved after the rise to national power of the PDG,the Malinke-dominated political party of Sekou Toure. The characters on these headdresses today include Muslim teachers, military men with rifles, white-robed government ministers, women carrying suitcases on their heads, women holding their breasts, seated men, an elder holding a staff, cyclists, airplanes, chameleons, birds, miniature hares, and the elephant, the symbol of the PDG. Much of this characterization seems to have to do with movement and people on the move. In one village the people explained their Sibondel with the image of men followed by suitcase-carrying women followed by men with rifles (fig. 227): "The chiefs [government ministers] are on a voyage and they're always accompanied by their wives, who carry the suitcases with them, and then they always have the soldiers, who are their protectors." Confirmation that the human figures surmounting the headdress do not represent Baga characters is found in the fact that although the hare head always bears Baga scarification marks, the human figures never do. As I have shown previously (Lamp 1996:113-14), the woman with the suitcase is almost certainly drawn from a Malinke theatrical prototype. The period of Sekou Toure was one of Malinke domination. The PDG's symbol, the elephant, is not traditionally found in the Baga repertoire of carved sculpture. So far as I know, no male government ministers were chosen from among the Baga (although one female minister, Madame Loffo Camara, is said to have been Baga); they were most frequently chosen from the Malinke, and all ministers were required to dress in the white Muslim cap and gown of the Malinke, regardless of their ethnic background. The Malinke formed the dominant group among the military, as they still do today, and the military was not an option chosen popularly by Baga youth. Why would the Baga be interested in Malinke soldiers, Malinke ministers, and the young Malinke wives of these ministers? In Guinea as elsewhere in Africa, one's allegiance is first to the ethnic group and only second to the nation. The Baga are Baga first and Guinean second. So the interest in these characters and the reason for their representation in one of the most important ritual masquerades of the Baga youth lies


somewhere outside the real Baga experience. Perhaps the Baga youth were participating vicariously in a political movement in which they in fact had no central part. For such a disenfranchised group as the Baga youth, it must have been invigorating to identify with a movement that seemed so powerful and so au courant. This was not the first time that elements of the Baga society had identified with the Malinke in order to protect their social position. In order to understand the art of this period, it is necessary to understand the political climate of the time. From the 1950s, when the PDG,the most powerful political party in Guinea, was consolidating its control, well into the late 1970s, at the height of the reign of Sekou Toure, the Baga youth stood firmly with the Susu youth and Fulbe youth in support of the PDG (Riviere 1977:72). In flagrant opposition to their elders among all three ethnic groups, these youth saw in the PDG a way to overthrow the rule of the elders, the gerontocracy that had kept them subjugated. It certainly was not that the Baga youth wanted to live under the rule of the Malinke, and this was not the platform that the PDG publicly proposed. Still, as A. D. Riviere has pointed out, the PDG agenda was in fact the "Malinke-ization" of all of Guinea. What the youth of the coastal groups saw as modernization was at heart the expansion of Malinke cultural hegemony. This was the climate throughout Guinea during the 1950s to 1970s, preceded by a buildup since the beginning of the century and a cool-down period lasting well into the 1980s. It was a war of the youth against their elders in which the Malinke initiative was seen as a vehicle for the way out.

223. Preparing for the dance of al-B'rak, Baga Sitemu. Associated with the avant-garde, al-B'rak here is decorated with the letters "RTG," standing for Radio-Television Guineenneâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the latest in Guinean technology. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1990.

224. Hare headdress with figures (Sibondel).

225. Salo Baki as an elder. This great inventive

Baga Sitemu/Landuma, mid-twentieth century. Sibondel

carver died in Katako on November 28, 1993,

continued to evolve during the Islamic revolution, with

after contributing information for this book.

characters drawn from the realm of a new, Malinke-

Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

driven political environment of postindependence. Wood, polychrome. H.68.6 cm. Collection Richard and Antonia Kahane, McLean, Virginia. CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


226 (right). Dance of al-B'rak, Katako Village, Baga Sitemu (now in an American collection â&#x20AC;&#x201D; fig. 239). The movement of al-B'rak follows the pattern of Sibondel in circling around the perimeter of the plaza, leaning toward the crowd, and spinning, while young men alternate with the masker in dance. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.

227. Hare headdress with figures (Sibondel), Baga Sitemu. Carver: Koumbassa, Mardi. Characters here include two government ministers, two women carrying suitcases, two soldiers, and an elephant, the symbol of the ruling political party from 1958 to 1984. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992. 232 CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

"Malinke-ization," "Independence," and "Demystification" The coming of Islam to the Baga coast was only a prelude of things to come,and although certain art forms such as Sibondel and al-B'rak blossomed at this time, the fate of the more sacred forms of art was sealed by the events of the next two decades. These events help to explain both why the Sibondel developed the content we have seen, and why such forms as the a-Mantsho-rio-Pon would never be seen again. In the period of independence following the terrible events of 1954-57, a program of "demystification" was put into effect by the national government that took power. In theory, this program had a noble and progressive goal: to make use of the rich national patrimony of indigenous ritual knowledge for the advancement of the nation, as expressed by the Secritaire General et Responsable Supreme de la Revolution, Ahmed Sekou Toure: Every act, every capability, everything we are conscious of, can be explained, made rational, and made scientifically understandable, if its laws and its logic are rendered clear, accessible to the collective comprehension and translated into a common language. We should invite them—these sorcerers—to put their secrets at the disposition of society, and then all people will be equally instructed and educated, therefore, by the sorcerers, that is to say, the savants (Sekou Toure, Oeuvres du PDG, XVII, 1969:43, as quoted in Blez Bangoura 1974:71). In fact the reality became more sinister. Ritual leaders were forced to divulge secret knowledge to the authorities, and sacred ritual was in effect nationalized, and transformed into "danse folklorigue." Genuine traditional religious practices were declared illegal, with severe penalties. Some secular dance, even with costumes, continued, and some few rituals continued under camouflage, but in general, indigenous ritual came to a halt. This program targeted principally the forest region, but it effectively institutionalized the transformation of the Baga as initiated by the jihad of 1954-57, and it resulted in the virtual decimation of ritual art throughout the Republic (Riviere 1969, 1977:232-33). Tome's aim was to purge traditional religion of its essential mysticism and to render it a system of reason, thereby refuting a basic premise of Negritude, the doctrine championed by Toure's nemesis Leopold Senghor, of Senegal(Kaba 1976:209-210). Toure called for an "intellectual rehabilitation": We must courageously set aside every irrational concept, all speculations of the mind which are only aesthetic romanticisms, since they do not serve the special cause of the peoples of Africa; they echo the crass disfigurings of African personality in which the colonial system indulged (Sekou Toure, in Guinea 1965:193-97). Penalties were established by the national government for all sorts of indigenous religious practices now considered offenses against socialist progress; specifics were published in the national newspapers(Tyam 1976:73-74). In each village, from the forest in the southeast to the rice swamps on the coast, a large building was erected called the "Permanence." Here all the citizens were required to meet once a week to hear Marxist exhortations by the local PDG leaders and to report any infractions of the new laws. Children were encouraged to spy on their parents and to accuse them publicly. Many of those sent to prison simply disappeared, and this included persons of all social standing,from village farmers to ambassadors and government ministers. There were no trials and no access to information for the relatives of the accused. Conditions in the prisons were intolerable and the most inhumane forms of torture were applied, most notably the diete noire (black diet), the total deprivation of food and water until death. In the 1970s alone, some 2,900 political prisoners were documented by Amnesty International(Human 1982).




Particular focus of the Party was made on the initiation of young men, considered a direct threat to correct education as envisioned by the new government. The young people who would have had to submit to initiation, often harsh and humiliating, eagerly sought the support of the government in sabotaging the efforts of their elders. Baga male initiation had ceased several years earlier, and after Independence the government focused its attention on the ethnic groups in the forest region of southeastern Guinea; under the current climate, any possibility of a Saga resurgence was nullified.

228. Mosque, Baga Sitemu, Katako Village. At independence, the Islamic revolution took full effect, with the transformation of traditional sacred space into Islamic space and the destruction of the sites of

The Reconfiguration of Sacred Space The violent introduction of Islam into the Baga Sitemu villages, which struck at the very heart of the Baga religion and dealt a devastating blow to the rule of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon and the initiation over which he presided, was accompanied by topographical changes. The new leaders were clever enough to realize that the configuration of space in the Baga villages formed a foundation for continuing Baga ritual, and that if the indigenous Baga ritual were to be obliterated, space had to be transformed. Their method was to appropriate the spaces already functioning in ritual so that not only could the old rituals not take place, but the people would begin to see the new structures in the way they formerly viewed the old. The village of Tolkotsh offers an excellent case study (see plan, fig. 45 and key nos. 1-40). The Christian church had existed for decades in the very center of the village (no. 19). After independence it was moved to a location at the edge of the village, and a number of families belonging to the Tankrori clan moved to the area surrounding it. Clans in each village generally occupy discrete spaces, contained by the boundaries of neighboring clans, but the space of the Tankrori clan is now separated widely into two sections, with an empty corridor between them. In this same open space in the center of the village where the church had once stood could also be found the dancing ground (Banta — no. 18) for the initiation of kä-Bere-Tshol for the entire village. By this time the initiation had ceased. In the place of these two important meeting places, the new government constructed the huge, cavernous meeting hall called the Permanence. This is the hall where, once a week, every citizen was required to attend a meeting in which to discuss the progress of Marxist development in the village and the behavior of individual citizens in this regard. It became the location where people were denounced and sent to prison for crimes against the state. Whether the Baga ever made the connection or not, the same space, formerly used for dance, would have been the stage for the spirit of the initiation, a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol. This spirit was greatly feared as a punisher, and metaphorically represented beginnings and ends. Several adjustments were made to the spaces in which the ritual of the highest male spirit, a-Mantsho-rio-Pon, formerly took place. For the incoming Muslim leaders, the power of this great spirit above all else had to be broken. Toward the center of the village was another open plaza where this great spirit masquerade took place (no. 13). It was there that the Muslims built their great central mosque for the village of Tolkotsh. The prayers to Allah were now heard, then, where formerly the cries of the devotees to a-Mantsho-iio-Pon were heard in sacred dance. Unrelenting, the Muslim leaders pressured the district administration to construct a primary school to the north of the village at the site of the sacred forest grove where a-Mantsho-fio-Pon and his devotees conducted secret ritual and prepared for his public events (no. 27). This would have been the most sacred and prohibited site in Tolkotsh, and its appropriation by the Muslims was certainly the greatest slap in the face of the traditionalists. The most prohibited site of the elder savants was now to be occupied by small children. The former sacred forest of Bogalansh [a-Mantsho-tio-Pon] is now the site of the school. They had so many problems building the school there—deaths,

indigenous religion. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992. 234 CHAPTER XI • THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

injuries, and other problemsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that no one will build a house in that area today (middle-aged man, Christian, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). A third site in the ritual of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon was a small wood between two quartiers of the village (no. 30). Here was another sacred grove where the great spirit stopped on his way from the principal sacred grove outside the village to the central plaza where he would perform. Here the Kabesan clan, already converted to Islam, extended their territory and built a house on the sacred site. Directly across the street, the quartier raised up a small mosque facing the site. It is probably also significant that the mosque was located on the route leading to the edge of the village and the sacred grove of the boys' initiation for the Kabesan clan (no. 31), where the boys would have been consecrated to the great spirit, in an initiation that was the principal occasion for the appearance of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon. There was one more site connected with a-Mantsho-fio-Pon that had to be deconsecrated, and that was the sacred grove of the elder clan leaders (no. 23), where they met to discuss issues before proceeding to the sacred grove of the great spirit (no. 27), and where the great spirit danced for the elders before moving to the central dance plaza (no. 13) for the semipublic performance. Between these two groves, a vast football field was cleared, and the elders' meeting place now became the viewing ground for the villagers coming to cheer their favorite team. The elders' sacred ground now became the playground of the youth. National Cultural Appropriation Again ironically, the Marxist totalitarian state also encouraged an interest in "folkloric" traditions. This resulted in the development of an internationally applauded state dance troupe, Les Ballets Africains (Rouget 1956), and the construction of a statewide system of art museums. At the forefront is the Musee National in Conakry, which, by the 1980s, was organized under the immediate supervision of a Direction du Patrimoine, the more general jurisdiction of the Direction Nationale de la Culture, and ultimately the Ministere de l'Information, de la Culture, et du Tourisme. The Musee National and Radio-Television Guineenne have promoted the performing arts in rather vigorous programming. At the local level, the "Circular No. 40/PRG/of 31 August 1966" established regional museums at provincial headquarter towns throughout the country. For the Baga and their neighbors, the relevant museum is the Musee de Boke. This elegant museum was established in the colonial mansion, completed in 1878, that once served as the district commissioner's home and headquarters. With the help of the 229. Grounds of the Musee National, Conakry. After independence, the ritual arts of the Baga and other Guinean groups were appropriated by the new national government and placed at the disposal of the public at the national and regional museums. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1985.



230. Les Ballets Africains. After 1958, every local community organized dance groups to compete at successive levels up to the national level, where party recognition was won. Here the national appropriation of the Baga Zigiren-Wonde masquerade shows an evolution in form. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1990.

"Friends of the Musee de Boke" (a group of expatriates at the CBG mining company in Kamsar), the neglected old building was refurbished, with gallery space on the first floor and offices and archives on the second. A very enthusiastic young Malinke man by the name of Son Kaba has been the director of this museum since its inception in 1982. The Republic of Guinea has become synonymous abroad with its most famous ambassadors, the dance troupe known internationally, since its celebrated appearance at the United Nations in 1966, as the Ballets Africains. The origins of the troupe may be traced to the late 1940s in Paris, when Fodeba Keita and his friends organized African dance concerts while he was teaching at the Lycee Saint-Louis. The first company was formed in 1947, as the Ensemble Fodeba-Facelli-Mangue. This became the Ballets Africains in 1952, and by 1959 the troupe was known and acclaimed throughout Europe and America (Kaba 1976:202). Its repertoire drew upon indigenous ritual and dance in Guinea, Senegal, Mali, and Gambia, but its format was based on the French theater and was meant to be performed on a proscenium stage, with movements strictly choreographed, dramatic story lines, and an audience kept at a distance. Baga dance was included, particularly the Sorsorne, ZigirenMina,and others. While the founder was Malinke, many other ethnic groups were 236 CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

represented in the troupe. Fodeba Keita, after serving as a government minister, was soon sentenced by Sekou Toure to die for unspecified offenses at the infamous Camp Boiro in Conakry. The party agenda established to encourage theater throughout the country was well outlined by a student at the University of Conakry in 1982: An element that reinforces social cohesion, the artistic troupe permits, in large measure, a child of the peasant to fraternize with the child of the magistrate; the elder is taken into account in the same way that a young boy or young girl has the right to dance the ballet or to play the violin.... It was precisely in 1959 when it was ordered that each administrative region would have its own theatrical troupe....The organization of arts and culture in the Republic of Guinea is part and parcel of the JRDA (Youth of the African Democratic Revolution), which, itself, is parallel to the structure of our great Party, the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG)(Fofana 1982:51). Artistic and cultural troupes were formed at four levels throughout the country: (1) the Local Revolutionary Power (PRL), corresponding to a village community or guarder;(2) the District Revolutionary Power (PRA), the district level, comprising a major village or town and its satellites;(3) the Regional Revolutionary Power (PRR), the regional level, centered at the headquarters of the cercle; and (4) the Central Revolutionary Power (PRC), the national level. Competitions were organized at each level, and the winners would progress through to the national competition. The Baga youth competed eagerly, successfully drawing national attention to their artistic forms. In these competitions they were also exposed to other Guinean forms. The role of RTG (Radio-Television Guinneenne) in homogenizing Guinean culture, especially in the 1980s, cannot be ignored. Radio, destined to carry the Party message, had long emphasized the cultural revolution, with music drawn from all areas of the country. As for television (inaugurated in 1978), with almost no programming imported from the outside, the few hours in the evening when television broadcasted were primarily devoted to news and government propaganda, for example endless speeches by Sekou Tour& With much time between to be filled, however, the government also broadcast local dance, obtained by sending film crews to special events around the country, and especially to national celebrations in Conakry, where regional groups came to perform. These television and radio programs generally appeared unedited and without commentary, with the effect that the ethnic context was deemphasized and the production was marketed for national consumption. RTG became an extremely important venue for cultural cross-fertilization. Thus the Malinke-ized central government skillfully used the media of print, radio, television, and theater to "rehabilitate" Guinean culture. Artists across the country had exposure to the forms of other ethnic groups. The Baga, though never major players in the Guinean cultural revolution, were certainly deeply affected by it, and managed, through artistic resourcefulness, to make it work for them as, perhaps, it did not elsewhere. The Islamic watershed became not simply a moment of cultural destruction, but an opportunity for the most innovative members of Baga society to reinvent their culture. We have seen that choices were made by individual artists and that strategies were employed to facilitate the acceptance of new forms by the people. Existing forms were not simply abandoned in toto; some tradition was drawn upon and modified in order to provide a continuity of spirit. The Baga could not have turned the tide of Islamic and Marxist fervor reigning in French Guinea at mid-century, but they were able to turn it to some advantage, and, most poignantly, they were able to have a positive impact upon the epoch. Yet there is the extraordinary vacuum left in Baga cultural life. It seems ironic, considering the historically rich cultural texture of life among all the small coastal groups of Guinea, that the most austere aspects of Islamic life, mediated through the CHAPTER XI â&#x20AC;˘ THE ISLAMIC WATERSHED



culture of the neighboring Susu, were now being embraced by all the coastal peoples. The Susu have no masks, no masked dance, no sculptural tradition. And, what is more, the Islamic Susu tradition that the coastal peoples have chosen to adopt is cleansed even of the moderating cultural aspects normally observed by the lay Susu themselves. Susu secular enjoyments, such as their energetic dance tradition and their wonderful musical ensembles, soften the impact of Islamic proscription in daily life. But this is not what the Susu karamokos exported to the Baga. From the beginning of my contact with the Baga my question was always,"How could this have been allowed to happen?" Certainly the transformation to an Islamic society aligned with the Susu would have had economic and social enticements, especially for the young. With assimilation to the conventions of the groups holding power would come, one would hope, the benefits in jobs, money, clothes, social access, a larger pool of potential wives and husbands, and generally a share of the new pie being served on the menu of a revolutionary new political and social system. Certainly also, the young people saw a way to claim political rights they might seem to deserve on the merits of their new education, apparently more relevant to their new world than that of their elders. And the traditional battle of the youths against their elders seems to have been turning its tide in the youths' favor. In point of fact, the Baga youth may eventually have discovered that the payoff they had expected was not to come; by the 1980s this would result in some growing nostalgia. But at the time, at the moment of their independence (from France, their elders, and the Baga spirits), in practical terms the youths were taking advantage of new opportunities. In my last six months working with the Baga Sitemu at the village of Tolkotsh in 1992, however, I began to feel a sense of the Baga dilemma emerging, uncannily, in the tedium of a particular task I had taken on. With my goal of engaging the eldest ritual leaders in serious dialogue turning ever more sour, I decided to draw upon my powers of observation, and upon my generally magnanimous welcome as a community member, to chart a plan of the village (fig. 45). I had the feeling that if I could grasp the spatial arrangement, I could learn much more about how ritual and art had functioned in the past, as the setting would still be largely intact. At the same time, I might develop a history of change in the village, as indeed turned out to be a principal benefit, one leading to the examination of the reconfiguration of sacred space discussed earlier in the chapter. Thus it was that almost every day I would stroll around the village with big sheets of paper, a compass, and a rule, in the company of one or another villagerâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;from my interpreter to schoolboys to fishermen on a day off. As we would walk, tracing each road and each footpath, and noting the location of each house, my companion of the moment would mention, in no particular order, sites of ritual that ended thirty years ago. Day by day, my map became filled with notes and graphicsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a former initiation grove here, the dance ground of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon there, a house now built where the Serpent spirit would appear, a rice field where the great female spirit a-Bol used to appear in a pool. I began to see that almost every vacant spot and many current habitation sites were the former locations of sacred ritual, many of these locations prohibited to particular segments of village society. It was becoming almost incredibly clear that before the Islamic revolution of the 1950s, the Baga village had been absolutely saturated, inside and round about, with sacred and prohibited sites. In interview, as well, with Baga elders and older adults concerning their cultural history, I began to get a sense of such an overwhelming annual schedule of ritual events that I could hardly perceive a culturally dry season (unless it were the rainy season, when ceremony took a hiatus). When, I wondered, did the people find time to schedule all the week-long wedding ceremonies for each bride, the wakes for all the dead, the harvest and planting celebrations, the dozens of masquerades, the sixmonth-long initiations, the intervening periods of "closing the land," the sacrifices at


each clan shrine, the gatherings and proceedings of the respective age grades, the birth ritual, the judicial proceedings of the council of elders, and so on and so on? I was frequently reminded of the Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." Before the destruction of so much of their culture in the mid-twentieth century, the Baga lived in extremely interesting times. The answer to the question of why the Baga youth, of all Baga segments, should adopt the most somber form of a foreign, already limiting culture I think is suggested by the Chinese curse. The times had become too interesting, too rich, too concentrated, too magnificent. The bounty was too plentiful. The wine flowed too freely, and to quote a now middle-aged Baga man,"We, the young men, spent all our time going up and down the palm tree to tap palm wine for the old men. They were insatiable." Sekou Beka Bangoura's comment above is tellingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that the youths at mid-century "had had enough of the Baga divinities." It was finally against all this that the young people rebelled, opting for a life of relatively austere and iconoclastic tranquillity.






231. Boy with wooden figure, probably from a traditional context, is transformed by the boy, as seen in fig. 232. Transformation and image projection are traditional Baga categories. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990.


The approach used in this book has been to present various viewpoints from both inside and outside Baga society without assuming the burden to "get it right." Work with the art history of the Baga has been a lonely task, with few immediate colleagues and predecessors, and little existing literature as a foundation. Finding my way in this darkness of documentation, with little possibility for comparison either synchronic or diachronic, has been unsteady and full of uncertainty. Did I survey enough villages? Did I interview the right people? Was I unduly influenced by one point of view or another? Was I simply handed a pack of lies? Fortunately, others are now beginning in-depth research on Baga culture. Marie Yvonne Curtis, a Guinean graduate student at the Sorbonne, Paris, is now writing a dissertation on a comparative ethno-aesthetic study of the Nalu and the Baga Sitemu. Although we discussed our work at the outset, and we correspond, we have not compared notes to any great extent, as Ms. Curtis's work was just beginning while I was completing my fieldwork. Oumar Tall, of the Musee National, Conakry, has continued his research independently since our work together of 1985-87, and has compiled a large archive of written and photographic documentation. Ramon Sarro, a Spanish graduate student in anthropology at the University of London, is writing a dissertation on the phenomenon of religious change among the Baga Sitemu. Mr. Sarro and I also correspond on our work, but we have not shared our written products, except vocabularies and specific topics. Djibril Tamsir Niane, one of the contributors to this text, is concurrently producing a monograph on the art of the Baga based on his fieldwork with his university students in the 1970s, now after years of political exile from his native country. These researchers and others will inevitably produce work with some data and some conclusions at variance with mine, even though we have interviewed many of the same people and have collaborated with many of the same Guinean observers. I look forward to the enrichment that diverse points of view can bring to the discussion of the Baga, once so obscure and now brought into the international light. One salient Baga viewpoint among many involves the desire for a renaissance of Baga artistic power. That viewpoint has been given prominence here, for the success of our research has been in large part due to the eagerness of those taking this position to publicize Baga artistry abroad. The book and the exhibition on the art of the Baga are their project as much as mine. Their zeal is infectious and has obviously aroused my sympathies, impacting upon my point of view. On the arrival of our research team in 1986, we noted, in living among the Baga, that few people younger than fifty had the least remembrance of traditional ritual. CHAPTER XII â&#x20AC;˘ THE PRESENT DILEMMA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


232. Celebration before the national Saga football tournament of the Baga Sitemu,Pukur and Bulunits, Katongoro Village, 1990. In the crowd, a boy (center) pretends to videotape the events with a wooden camcorder shown in fig. 231 to be actually a human figure. Photo: Frederick Lamp.

Meanwhile, those who had had any esoteric understanding at the time that the traditional educational structures and procedures disappeared were eighty years old or more by the time of our visit. Those who had the extensive ritual knowledge of an elder savant when the practice was current are no longer living. Under these circumstances, as one can imagine, it was practically impossible to observe the traditional ritual until the spirit of revival took hold. When we showed photographs of ritual objects produced in the past to certain groups of Baga, they would often say,"Ah, that's Baga"â&#x20AC;&#x201D;as if it concerned another people, not themselves but a people of the past. Because of the history of the period up to the mid 1980s, we all felt, during the course of our visits in 1985 and 1986-87, that the Baga had developed a certain inertia. People seemed demoralized by their situation. All that they had been accustomed to doing in the past had been declared wrong, even illegal. If it was wrong to dance the masks, wrong to sing the songs, wrong to carry out the initiations of the young, as the ancestors had done for centuries, then everything the Baga had been doing was wrong, useless, degraded. So they lost their will, their joy of living. People often spoke of a degeneration: we have given up fishing as we used to do, we have allowed the rice to rot in the fields, the children go without proper nourishment, family life is disintegrating. In 1955, Denise Paulme found that the people of Kawass were cultivating only 8 percent of the rice swamps that had been documented as under cultivation in 1942, and that the young people were discouraged and were moving away (1957:277). The young no longer wanted to speak the language of their parents, because it was seen as old-fashioned in this new world, where to be Baga was to be of another age, an age repudiated by the new order. The Baga appeared to be disoriented in regard to their future. Happily, one can say that the situation has begun to improve with the political position of the new government, and I believe that the fear so profoundly felt by the Baga diminishes little by little. On April 3, 1984, after the death of Sekou Toure, the army executed a coup d'etat and created the Comite Militaire de Redressement National. Since this overthrow of a government that had been in place since 1958, a collaboration has begun between those young people who sense the cultural loss and those elders who in some sense see a possibility of revival. In the villages and in the capital city, the elders have begun to seize the moment to teach the young people the dance steps, the drummers and the singers the ancient songs, the sculptors the carving of new masks, and young craftsman the fabrication of new costumes. Throughout Bagaland, a great number of villages have gone to enormous effort to stage spectacles of music and dance, re-creating the traditions of the past. Those involved are passionate about the rediscovery of the cultural heritage destroyed in the thirty years previous. Although they understand that they cannot return to the system that existed before independence, many are convinced that the Baga youth have a need to create a new sense of identity and direction through an affirmation of the best of traditional conventions. The euphoria that has accompanied the renaissance in this decade may be idealistic, but it bears upon the philosophy of African ritual. It is not simply that conducting a particular rite makes barren women fertile, or the rice crop strong. It is that by creating a rich cultural climate that includes ritual dance, music, and theater, the community and each individual in it are blessed with a fullness, a


strength, and a generosity and buoyancy of spirit that can be expected to result in material prosperity, healthy children, a good harvest, and all the good things of life. This is certainly how the young Baga supporters of traditional ceremony see it. The Baga self-reinvention at the end of the second millennium A.D. will go hand in hand with new technological and economic developments that already heavily impact upon them, particularly the Kalum and the Sitemu. Within the past decade, the population of Conakry has exploded to more than a million people, with uncontrolled growth into the suburbs, swallowing small Baga villages such as Kaporo, Nongo, Ratoma, and Taouya that were still discrete when I first arrived, in 1985. Now the few mud-brick homes are tucked between Greek import companies, the villas of American diplomats, and French restaurants overlooking the sea. The world of the Sitemu is irreversibly altered by the establishment of the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee (CBG), which provides Guinea with 30 percent of its foreign exchange. In 1958 the rice fields along the coast belonging to the Saga village of Kamsar were chosen to provide the site for a port from which bauxite could be shipped and a factory for its storage and refinement. In 1966, CBG was formed with an agreement with HALCO (Mining) Incorporated, with headquarters in Pittsburgh and Brussels. Guinean export headquarters are located at the town of Kamsar. The lure of economic opportunity has drawn thousands of Guineans and foreign nationals each year, and the town is rapidly becoming Guinea's secondlargest city. The change that this portends for the previously rural and isolated Baga is monumental. Already the Baga of Kamsar have either joined the ranks of the highly paid CBG elite or, at the other end of the scale, have taken on the character of displaced persons. In recent years, Kamsar has expanded several kilometers to the next Baga village, Kawass, where an airport has been in place for decades. Kawass has in effect become a suburb of Kamsar. By 1990, a large nightclub had been built here, where the youth of Kawass spend their weekends with the youth of Kamsar, staying until four or five o'clock in the morning and disdaining more traditional recreational and artistic pursuits. With traffic from Conakry to Kamsar increasing, and the importance of Boke diminishing, a new bridge was opened in 1993 over the Rio Kapatchez between Kawass and Katako, providing a new throughway directly from Kamsar to the road to Boffa and Conakry. Not only does this shift the center of Kawass northward to meet the new highway, but the highway, following existing single-lane dirt roads, now cuts through the center of the once isolated village of Katako, and reduces the driving time from Kamsar to Katako from two hours to ten minutes. 233. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee(CBG), Kamsar. The establishment of CBG in 1966 has transformed the landscape of the Baga Sitemu, building a modern city from a small mud-brick village. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1990.



The Youth, Cultural Manipulation, and Longings for Things Not Revealed In the face of enormous changes in Baga culture, the position of children and their role in the system of age grades continues, despite the demise of such regulatory institutions as initiation. In 1992, celebrations for the end of Ramadan at the village of Tolkotsh included a great feast, with the slaughter of cattle and elaborate preparations of rice and sauce, and speeches by the elders exhorting the villagers to respect their heritage. Bernard Camara, my Baga assistant, came running to tell me to come see a wonderful sight. At the former site of the dance ground of the supreme male spirit, a-MantsholioPon, a multitude had gathered, all seated on the ground except the elders, who were seated on stools. The entire crowd was organized by age grade, even though no initiation, the traditional mechanism for establishing the age grades, had taken place for forty years. Almost no one under the age of fifty—that is to say, the great majority of the population—would have been processed through that tradition; yet the definitions had been established, and the people were seated in circles according to age grade. The event was full of magic for the people of Tolkotsh, for it once again made manifest the Baga social structure, which underlay so much of what was beautiful in the past. In the climate of the '90s, in the spirit of rebirth now so strong among the Baga, it was exhilarating to imagine, if only for a brief Ramadan celebration, that the successive stages of Baga youth were in line to carry on the hard work of Baga culture. In fact, as we saw in chapter VI, the children actively continue the process of reinventing Baga artistic convention just as generations have before them. This would have been difficult during the past three decades of repression, but now it is feasible again. The appropriation of the sacred forms of the elders—the great, forbidden a-Mantsho-iio-Pon masquerade, or the invention of to-lom, "sacred things"—follows in the centuries-old Baga tradition of the renewal of culture through the rebellion of new age grades, and the assertion of the unauthorized power of the "younger brother." For the older youth, however, the Baga village has held few enticements. By the 1980s most young Baga, especially those, both Muslim or Christian, who had been educated in the lycies and at the university in Conakry, had become frustrated with the stringent regulations imposed upon them by the Muslim hierarchy. Not only was it forbidden to drink palm wine, but the men were so afraid of the disapproval of the old Muslim leaders that no one could be found who knew how to climb the palm tree and tap the wine, or who would be willing to do so, among those few who actually did know. There was to be no dancing, especially with masks or costumes. 234. Wall painting, Baga Sitemu. Here the conflict of the youths between the now "traditional" Islamic allegiance and their attraction to Western imports is evidenced in the paintings, on opposite walls, of a Muslim holy man (left) and "Rambo" Sylvester Stallone (right). Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.


235. Children with water vessel, Baga Sitemu. Some elementary structure of the Baga age grades continues, nestled into the new Islamic and quasi-democratic present. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1992.

Saga music was to be forgotten, and the repetitive refrains of Islamic verse were mandatory for listening pleasure day and night. In the period following independence, from the 1950s to the 1990s, a great exodus of the youth from the Baga villages to Conakry occurred, leaving the villages without their greatest work force. A song composed in the 1980s for the dance of the Tikro mask (fig. 241) expresses the loss that women felt for their young companions: Young girls were here. Where have they gone? Where have they gone to settle? [Chorus]: Oh women of our village Where are they?

e a-wut a-ren ña na yi no

deke nein ko de nail ko kä nde ba e a-ren o dare da siina de ña yi o

Young Baga students find hope in the face of what they see as a material destruction yet a spiritual continuation: We saw the great humiliation of the community by the loss of all the traditions, now replaced by the Arabic. One of the greatest and most glorious traditions fell, conquered by Islam. Certainly, the Islamization of the Baga villages, in spite of some beneficial actions, defied the principles of Islam which strongly advocate tolerance, understanding, dialogue, and the free adherence to Islam. In retrospect, we can see that Islamization did not achieve its desired end, in spite of the very destruction of the sacred forest. This destruction, really, was no more than a superficial act, despite the profound ramifications of Islamic power. The mosques are today constructed everywhere. The rosary is said, but hearts are attached to the past which murmurs in the ears of the old initiates of the sacred forest. Pose the question to the elders, who say openly: "Even though night has fallen in my village, I will live my former life" ("The Baga Youth"). To a surprising extent, the youth have persisted in drawing upon Baga traditions in order to fashion a cultural milieu that is distinctly Baga at the end of the second millennium. Many masquerades of the youth seem to have continued to some extent through the period of repression, and are very much alive today. The dance of aBemp/a-Bamp, the bird, though out of favor in some parts in the 1930s-50s, when it gave way to the masquerades of Sibondel and al-B'rak, is now extremely popular, and is one of the few masquerades held regularly among the thoroughly Islamized CHAPTER XII • THE PRESENT DILEMMA



236 (above left). Dance of Komne, Baga Sitemu. Although many Baga youth abandon the villages for the capital city, village entertainment with costumes such as this are increasingly sponsored by the youth, somewhat in defiance of the austerity imposed by the Muslim hierarchy. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

237(above right). Dance of a-Bamp, Baga Kalum. Pre-Islamic masquerades belonging to the youths have successfully continued to the present, and are most adaptive; here fighter jets adorn the traditional a-Bamp headdress for a performance at a national holiday in Conakry. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1985.

238. Dance of a-Bamp, Baga Kalum. Personal name of headdress: Arabiarou Bangoura. Carved 1982. Baga artists continue to work in extremely inventive ways, as in this complex and abstract form of the bird headdress. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.


239. Winged horse headdress (al-B'rak), Katako Village, Baga Sitemu, c. 1986 (see fig. 226). The Islamic theme of al-B'rak is currently of great interest to young men, and is frequently danced among the Sitemu today. Wood, polychrome. H. 77.5 cm. Collection Mark Seidenfeld, New York.

240. Dance of Sa-Sira-Ren, Baga Kalum. The solidarity of the Baga youth is reinforced through their interest in maintaining Baga ritual art and performance. Here the maiden masquerade dances together with a sign claiming the goals of "friendship, solidarity, concord, and fraternity" for the "Social and Friendship Group of Kenien." Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1985.



and Susu-assimilated Baga Kalum. The dance of the leaf costume Wakarba among the Baga Sitemu has not lost its vigor. Weddings are frequently accompanied by an enthusiastic masquerade of the female figure Tiyambo, a strong symbol of youthful belligerence. The youth have forceful ritual associations, such as Gbenka, a society among the Baga Sitemu that features public manifestations involving a dance with a heavy wooden mortar held in the dancer's teeth. At my very first encounter with Baga masked dance, I saw what I recognized as a traditional form in a very nontraditional context. This was on April 3, 1985, outside the Palais du Peuple, on the vast concrete plaza where Sekou Toure once used to harangue the crowds with his attacks on the Western imperialists. It was the national celebration of the Republic's independence—in this case not the traditional day of independence from France, which is October 2, but the day of independence from the tyranny of Sekou Toure and his government, achieved just one year prior. The group of dancers surrounding the masker was made up of Baga youth from the southern Baga subgroups living in the section of Conakry called Kenien (fig. 240). The dance was of the maiden headdress Sa-Sira-Ren. The dancer wore a magnificent gown of a silver, black, and green print, bordered with white fringes. The polished black bust of a young woman was carved with a generous bosom and a sweet face, and was adorned with a pale-blue print head-tie, silver earrings, and a bright red strand of beads. She danced majestically, followed by a large crowd of young men and women, all dressed identically in red-and-white prints. One of the group's leaders carried a large sign lettered with the acronym GASK, under which were painted the words "GROUPE AMICAL SOCIAL KENIEN," and around which, in the corners, were placed the words "AMITIE," "SOLIDAIUTE," "CONCORDE," and "FRATERNITh." What could be the significance of the use of Sa-Sira-Ren in a national celebration, led by a sign proclaiming friendship, solidarity, concord, and fraternity among the Friendly Social and Friendship Group of Kenien? Sa-Sira-Ren is a symbol of sexual and social desire. Here is a group of young Baga people desirous of a number of things both universal and more particular. Presumably they seek friendship and sexual alliance, but they wish it to come together with their longings for ethnic integrity and pride. Their agenda also certainly includes a national position for the Baga people, which, in turn, would foster more ethnic pride, greater ethnic integrity, expanded social and sexual possibilities, jobs, economy, position, comfort, and place. Whether or not such an elaborate strategy consciousness underlies the performance, clearly the extent to which these young people had perfected their elegant and exuberant performance, and the extent to which they had carefully organized politically, speaks of their keen intent to put Baga artistic traditions at the service of a contemporary agenda. The Dilemma of the Adults We've all become Muslims—but not without regret. The passage of the two marabouts Asekou Sayon and Asekou Bokari in the Baga country had a disastrous effect. Indeed, these two men systematically destroyed and burned the historical documents of Baga cultural patrimony of which the Baga had been so proud (Sekou Beka Bangoura). In Baga villages, the opposition between sentiments both for and against Islamic fervor and purity and the desire for a return to indigenous religious forms can engender a tension that is sometimes severe, even today. On the one hand, a tension continues between Muslims and Christians, often dividing individuals in the same family. Though this division may be institutionalized in formal membership in either the Roman Catholic church or the Muslim mosque, and in attendance at the respective worship services, it is not always absolutely clear. Some Christians have Muslim obligations, especially if they hold political title in a predominantly Muslim village, or if they are torn between obligations to members of their families. Even husbands 248 CHAPTER XII • THE PRESENT DILEMMA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

and wives are not always of the same religion, not to mention fathers and sons, mothers and grandmothers, and so forth. How much more blurred, then, is the distinction between Islamic and Christian purists and those others who are Islamic or Christian, who take part in the respective religious events, but who still support and participate in activities of the indigenous Baga ritual system that either still remain or are in the process of revival. Some Islamic purists in every village refuse even to be present at the revived dances. On the other hand, there are individuals, both young and old, who would like to see a fairly thorough return to pre-Islamic Baga practices. Most Baga thought, however, can be found somewhere in the middle: the fundamentals of Islam or Christianity are accepted and the rituals are practiced, but some affection is held in reserve for aspects of the old religion. There is often a tension not only between members of the community, but within the individuals' hearts. An example of this tension was illustrated vividly in December 1986 in a village of the Baga Sitemu. The occasion was a masked dance held as expiation of an alleged crime committed by the Muslims the week before, at the end of November. In the preceding months, a certain clan had erected a sacred house, the ki-lo-ka-pon. In the pre-Islamic past, each quartier raised this kind of house to hold its sacred objects and to serve as a shrine to the ancestors, a shrine maintained by the eldest member of that clan. It seems that shortly after the sacred house was built, certain members of the community who were described as "the Muslims" had carried materials to the sacred house to use for a sacrifice. It is not clear whether the Muslims had malevolent intent or whether they honestly wished to incorporate the use of the traditional sacred house into their own Muslim ritual in order to effect a synchronization that might be palatable to the rest of the community. The prevailing view nevertheless was that their intent was to destroy the sacred house. And in fact, in the course of their sacrifice, which involved a burnt offering, the sacred house was burned to the ground. A village court case was brought against the Muslim leadership, and their sentence was to finance a particular dance performance, in lieu of being taken before the police at the sous-prefecture headquarters at Kamsar. So a dance ceremony was held on this dayâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;December 3, 1986 (fig. 241). The occasion began somewhat furtively, apparently with some last-minute misgivings on the part of the Muslims, with some refusing to cooperate and having to be cajoled. Attendance at the event was poor, which led many to complain that it wasn't worth continuing. Why so few people turned out was never explained, but perhaps there was an ambivalence of allegiance throughout the community. Nevertheless, the dance began at about 10 P.M. with a fair crowd of children moving from one end of the guarder to the other, carrying torches of lighted straw and singing. Then the dancer appeared from behind a house, wearing a mask with a knitted cap on his head. The mask was carved of wood, painted black, with a hide beard attached. A bleached raffia costume fell from shoulder to foot, and a medium-blue cloth was draped over the shoulders. A long cord was attached to the masked dancer's waist and held at full length by another man who followed behind the dancer, seeming to control him and to rein him in when necessary. One other man danced alongside the dancer. Another circulated around the periphery of the dance space, keeping order in the crowd by brandishing a torch. Around these three men the women and children danced in a circle, moving counterclockwise and singing. They were accompanied by three male drummers, one holding a box drum and the other two holding small kettle drums in the form of the th-ndef, the women's drum. Lyrics sung during the dance almost all had a note of sadness, despair, or appeal for help, as in the song lamenting the departure of young women, given above, and the following:

241. Dance of Tikro, Baga Sitemu. This masquerade was invented and performed in order to ease the tension between devout Muslims and the "traditionalists" of a Sitemu village. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1986.



242. Benoit Camara,elder, Baga Sitemu, Kawass Village. Many elders are torn between multiple allegiances. Benoit, over 100 years of age, is a practicing Muslim but prefers his self-appointed Christian name, and is nostalgic about the artistic and cultural magnificence of the Baga past. Photo: Frederick Lamp,1992.

Yes, women,I'm tired. Sadness has come. I don't know what to do. I had planted and I'm tired. Oh, God.

e a-ren-o in taka nonofor de yi mo i yo fente in de yo ma wali-o in taka e ala

You elders of this place— Be merciful this year. Think [about] tomorrow. Give us rice. [Chorus]: Yes that's why we look to you. Give us rice.

a-biki aka no nii dinye kä-rin nke na tshemtshemne alna nä yone su malo e ito sii rank mei nä yone su malo

The name of the mask was Tikro, which is translated as the command "Bow down." The purpose of the mask, it was said, is to teach humility to the women and the young men. Tikro provides an interesting example of the creation of a spiritual manifestation, and may help to shed light on the origin of masked manifestations in general among the Baga and elsewhere. People speak of the "invention" of Tikro and all the elements that contribute to the art form that he represents. The mask was created by Camille Camara, of Kawass, in 1985. Camille, perhaps significantly, was an older brother, the elder of our guide and interpreter, Charles Camara. Camille also choreographed the dance, using a vocabulary that seems to have been borrowed somewhat from the dance of D'mba-da-Tshol, the antiaesthetic counterpart to D'mba. Songs were composed by Camille's wife, Hawa Camara, who was chosen because she was said to have had a good reputation as a songwriter. Again, although these songs are a new creation, they seem to have been based on the motifs found in the music accompanying the dance of D'mba-da-Tshol. And again, like the latter masked spirit, the mask of Tikro is intended to be ugly, formally representing a bearded old man. Whether or not there is any reference in these motifs to the negative view some hold of the Muslim leadership could not be determined. But the creation of this masked dance was always connected, in testimony, to the fact of the tension between the Islamic leadership and those who considered themselves traditionalists and part of the renaissance of Baga culture. Perhaps the masquerade, created by an elder brother, and endowed artistically with the aspects of an elder's spiritual character, may invoke the legitimacy of traditionalism in the attempt to bring the progressive elements (in this case the Muslim zealots) under control. The creator, Camille Camara, died on July 24, 1995. One of the most interesting things about this is that here is a mask—but also a spiritual being—that the people have created. They know it is manmade. They know who created it. Yet this does not diminish its spiritual power. If the demystification of the sacred object is a function, somehow, of the Baga Islamic experience, the attribution of spiritual powers to inanimate things is not, and in fact is antithetical to this kind of demystification. Given the long Baga history of creating spiritually powerful objects, I cannot help but believe that the confidence that the Baga place in their own creations has been learned over many generations and many centuries, to the point that it is now "ingrained." The Elders: Regrets, Resignation, and Secrets For the dance of a-Tshol at the three-day national Baga sacrifice in 1986 (described in chapter V), a song was sung that seemed to sum up the dilemma of the elders who would like to see their society come together again and to try to rebuild something of the indigenous culture they once knew. It suggests an ambivalence toward Islam— an acceptance of Allah, and a certain relief in being rid of the oppressive aspects of traditional Baga ritual, but also some anger over the destruction of Saga identity:


Ask them to answer us. Oh, Allah, we are not united. They took away a burden but they have spoiled everything. It's this confiscation that we have been talking about. They spoiled everything. They spoiled the Baga society.

na yif ña pia wose e-e Allah, an tiiiine fe tia na lek kote iia liisiir-o i to ana lek ku-tshopne Fla na ruz na liisiir da-baka nde.

The following is a discussion held in 1992 between an elder Muslim, who formerly carved and danced D'mba and other masks/headdresses, and a younger, Christian, middle-aged man of the village at Kawass. It was an emotional moment, as the elder viewed the photographs of Baga objects in my album, and recalled a life interrupted for a half century: Elder: Younger: Elder: Younger: Elder:

Younger: Elder: Younger: Elder:


Our D'mba resembled the one in your photo. All the D'mbas were like that. I carried it and danced it in holding it by the feet in front. That one is really ready for the dance [looking at the photo]. Oh my God! What? You have a desire to dance now? Yes. In seeing these photos, I have a desire to revive the former times of the Baga. The first marabouts came to take away all our culture and go to sell them to enrich themselves. We are in a war with them until the end of time. Are they still alive today? They're dead. [breaks into song] We are going to dance the D'mba in a nearby village for a whole month. We will be given plenty to eat and to drink....It has been such a long time since I carried the D'mba. What—do you have nostalgia? You have a desire to carry it again.

By 1992, through our previous research, we had identified the clans responsible for each ritual, and also the clan leaders, very elderly men, now close to 100 years of age, with whom we had forged strong friendships in previous tours. The ritual leaders, however, while welcoming us in the village and enjoying casual interchange, absolutely refused to discuss the high spirits, the masquerades that represented them, and the masks and ritual paraphernalia of these traditions. The latter they presumably still hold in secret, since none of these masks has ever appeared on the market. Neither we nor any of the interested young educated Baga have been able to pierce this wall of secrecy. After months of frustration, this curious situation became the subject of discussion, leading to some interesting sentiment on the nature of knowledge transmission. It became obvious that an element of anger exists between the generations of elders and the youth. All are now Muslim or Christian (a minority), but the different age grades have had vastly different religious experience. The youth resent the fact that their elders refuse to pass on knowledge they feel that they need for cultural preservation and pride, and the elders steadfastly resist, under the sentiment that the younger generations have trampled on their heritage and that no one today deserves to have the knowledge. The elders' intransigence may also have another motive that is in keeping with Saga tradition: by controlling and making inaccessible that which the youths desire, they once again establish their legitimate right to power as the traditional and proverbial elder. There is also the sense that the system in which knowledge was transmitted in the past has broken down, and that the new system introduced by the French is incompatible with the old knowledge. I had asked several elders why the knowledge is not being passed on to the youth, just as it is scarcely given to me in my entreaties:

243. Headdress (Tkinkonba/Tabakin). Saga Sitemu/Mandori/Landuma (late 19th-early 20th century). Apparently the use of the Tonkonba went underground after the Islamic conversion and its use continues in a limited way to the present day. Wood. L. 90 cm. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mr. and Mrs.J. Alec Merriam (1984.88.9).



I know many things to pass on, but not all at once; that is done little by little. But you are not at my side. I cannot pass on everything in one day (elder, Muslim, Kawass, Sitemu, 1992). No! The children aren't interested in this anymore. Islam has destroyed all of it and there is no possibility of continuing. In the past, children would come to their parents, their fathers, and the fathers, the elders, would pass on knowledge, little by little, to them. But now no child ever comes to me, none of my children or grandchildren are interested in asking me anything about the Baga traditions. If they were interested I would pass them on, but they're not interested. ... It is a very sad thing, that the children won't have the benefit of the knowledge that I have (elder, Muslim, Tolkotsh, Sitemu, 1992). The question of secrecy among the Baga today is a complex one that must be addressed on several different levels. Without a doubt, the loss of cultural wealth after the coming of Asekou Sayon was enormous. But certain veins of cultural and artistic intensity have continued to pulse, and in some ways the traditions are transmitted through the generations. One younger man,for example, told Ramon Sarro (personal communication 1995) how one of his "betters" had taken him on a long walk in the bush and pointed out the significance of each special tree and rock and their role in the ritual activities of the great male spirit a-Mantsho-rio-Pon. Among the Baga, these young people now eagerly seek this knowledge, not to enclose themselves in its secrecy but to celebrate publicly what they see as a former exuberant ritual universe. Many Baga adults share their sentiment, and are willing, to a certain extent, to share with the youths the elementary knowledge they did manage to gain, as youths in their own time, concerning the great, guarded, prohibited truths. They have also been affected by the national program of demystification in the 1960s and '70s, which has reconfigured the relationship between the Baga ritual specialist and the outside inquirer. While the deep metaphoric meanings remain hidden, and the fundamental, exclusive ritual practices that enabled the elders to manipulate Baga society are not divulged, the superficial procedures can be discussed to some extent, and, what is really revolutionary, the names may be named. For the Baga youth, however, despite some instruction shared with the younger adults, the secrecy of the elders is more forbidding than ever, because the mechanisms for transmission have been destroyed. The elders charged with the highest responsibilities toward the ritual regalia and procedure seem to be withdrawing from their own younger generation, sealing their traditional knowledge, in the belief that no venue for its dissemination can ever again be opened. As yet no way seems to have been found to bridge the information gap. Without the successive initiations, the ordeals, the beatings, the ritual drinking, and the regalia of elder power, a body of knowledge that exists is robbed of its mode of expression. Its traditional secrecy remains, but the means of revealing secrets across the generational continuum do not. In the wake of such thorough destruction of material culture, and the highly effective ban on indigenous ritual since the 1950s, a residual paradox exists that seems irresolvable. Like an ancient enclave emerging at the dawn of the twenty-first century from a time capsule, speaking an esoteric ritual language and understanding a lost system of thought, the elder clan chiefs responsible for the most forbidden and sacred objects continue in their role of ritual leaders with no followers. Ironically, the most forbidden object, the carved wooden head of a-Mantsho-rio-Pon, apparently escaping the detection of the Muslim reformers, is said also to remain. If this is in fact the case, the clan chiefs are in possession of ritual material that they may show to no one, discuss with no one, and use in performance with no one, not even their closest relatives. Presumably, if they are in possession of the ritual materials, they must maintain them and guard them and perhaps even can conduct private ritual, if only maintenance ritual. At the very least, the ritual of secrecy engages them. It is an intriguing situation in which ritual guardians continue some sort of 252 CHAPTER XII â&#x20AC;˘ THE PRESENT DILEMMA


ritual function in alienation from the society that this function once ruled in absolute control. The person who owns the head of the high male spirit keeps it in a big box in his house and almost every day he opens up the box and takes out the head and polishes it, cleans it, dusts it, and inspects it to make sure there are no termites or other insects eating the head. This is essential. If he did not do this, if any insects managed to damage the head, he would be killed—he would die. When he takes this out to inspect it, no one else may see it, not even his wife. If she happens to see it, she would die. The owners of the heads of the high spirit in each village will probably keep those heads and maintain them in secret for the next hundred years or more, without ever taking them out to dance them, or ever showing them to the public (middle-aged man, Christian, Kawass, Sitemu, 1987).

244. Mask (Banda/Kumbaruba). Baga/Nalu (early 20th century). Banda was danced only at auspicious occasions such as marriage, harvest celebrations, planting ritual, and new moon. Its use continues among the Baga Mandori. Wood, polychrome, L. 160 cm. Collection James Willis, San Francisco.

When an heir to the tradition was asked if he would talk to me about it, he replied, "Never, never, never, never!" It was my initial welcome and enthusiastic response that had led me to believe that perhaps the ritual heads and I could discuss the most sacred things. We could not. I must say that, despite my disappointment in not getting access to the secrets that I desired, I am gratified, really, to know that the elders still respect their obligation to traditional knowledge in this aspect. I felt that to seek devious and opportunistic ways to obtain this knowledge would be to disrespect the very system of thought I had come to study. Furthermore, if the proscription against divulging sacred information to outsiders is in such full effect, perhaps equally in effect is some sort of very restricted mechanism for passing on esoteric knowledge to a highly selected new generation of close family heirs. Reconfiguration of Gender and Ritual Responsibility One curious development in the status of gender has been ushered in by the Islamic revolution. Under the indigenous system, men were clearly in charge of ritual. Only men could approach the highest costumed spirits—both the highest male spirit, a-Mantsho-iio-Pon, and the highest female spirit, a-Bol. Men dominated the ritual dance, wearing the costumes and masks of all manifested spirits. Only the male elders could sit on the governing council, and the insigne of the office, the carved stool, could belong only to the man. In the maintenance of quotidian life, on the other hand, both men and women held prescribed roles, alternately sharing the CHAPTER XII • THE PRESENT DILEMMA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED


245. Dance of a-Bil (boat) and Avion (airplane), Baga

Sitemu. Women's ritual dance thrives throughout Bagaland, and often includes motifs of travel consistent with women's roles in marketing outside the region. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

duties of agriculture and the upkeep of the home and family, although the women clearly bore the greater burden (Balez 1930b). Since Islamization, the sexes have been driven to polar positions, wherein women are now severely oppressed on a mundane level, but have assumed a leadership role on the level of indigenous ritual. The men have adopted a philosophy that they believe to be mandated by Islam, to wit, that it is man's highest role to sit with his colleagues and discuss the Koran. The woman's role is to do all the maintenance of the home, plus the majority of the work in the rice fields, except for the initial plowing and the construction of dikes. The men are quite proud of what they consider an achievementâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;that the men have reduced their workloadâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and a sign of higher civilization. One might note that according to one author on the ethnography of Guinea-Bissau (Pereira 1914:24), "The work in the fields is reserved almost exclusively for the woman" among the Manding, to whom we have already alluded, and whose role in the transformation of the Baga we have already discussed. In the years since 1954, throughout the jihad of Asekou Sayon and the later program of demystification, it was the men who were scrutinized most thoroughly and who suffered most severely for transgressions. The unauthorized activities of women seem to have been somewhat overlooked in the drive for Islamic Marxism. On August 27, 1977, when women in Conakry organized the first revolt against the independent government, defending their right to engage in petty trading, it became clear that such capitalistic activity endured despite harassment. It now appears that in fact many prohibited practices continued among the women,for example the initiation rituals for both young girls and married mothers. Women among the Baga Sitemu had continued to develop dance headdresses during the years of repression. The student Abdulai Tyam recounted one event: On June 15, 1975, in the course of our investigations, we had the opportunity to witness all the Baga believers...from Boke, Boffa, Conakry, and even Fria, attend the ceremony of the inauguration of a new mask belonging to the women; a mask sculpted at Katako (Boke, area of the Baga Sitemu) and transported to Kifinda [a Buluriits village] where it was baptized under the name of a woman called "Mari Suma." This ceremony brought together the initiated women of the neighboring villages of the [Buluriits](even the invalids), and the men initiated for the occasion, who all were able to dance over a three-day period under the oppressive sun as well as the driving rain (1976:68). Some of the most interesting women's headdresses among the Sitemu are a-Bil and Avion. "A-Bil" means "boat," and the headdress, found in several villages, is a representation of the Overbeck, the boat that takes passengers between Kamsar and Conakry, used commonly by Baga women to take goods to the market in the capital. So it is an image related to Baga female independence and self-reliance, a common theme in women's music, expressed in terms of traveling out of the Baga area. Avion, of course, is the airplane, but specifically the national airline, Aire Guinee. Few if any Baga women (with the exception of the current first lady, who is Baga Sitemu, from the village of Tolkotsh) have ever flown on the national airline, but all are aware of it, as it is an enormous source of national pride and is well publicized. Airplanes in general are well known to the Baga, as the flights from Conakry to Dakar fly directly over the entire length of Baga territory. So the Avion is a readily accessible image of ambition and desire. In the 1990s I found that although men wanting to revive some of the old culture had to go to great pains to create a ritual dance and music event, the women were always prepared. Few men had the skills of drumming, but the women were well practiced. Young men had to be taught the songs and the dance steps, but the women already knew them. When a village wanted to produce a celebration, it was always the women who were most instrumental in organizing and in executing the event. The women now dominated the revival of indigenous Baga ritual.



246. Dance of a-Tekin with a-nclef drums, Bap Sitemu. The women continue their initiations into the society of mothers and continue to feature dances using newly carved caryatid drums. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1990.

The women seem to be more hopeful, less cynical, about the possibilities offered since the change of government in 1984. Their enthusiasm has resulted not only in renewed solidarity in the up-country villages, but also in the development of performance directed toward an outside audience. One of their songs, included in a dance of the women's a-Tekan association that we witnessed in Conakry, referred to the hope they have placed in the new military government: [Solo]: The news that has come from within the country— That's what we've come to hear. [Chorus]: The army has said That things will be sweet. The army has said That things will be sweet.

mo-loku me a-loku nde ku-ron ma i mo san de tshiiiikal Parme ña loku siina a pan de bot-o l'arme iia loku sana a pan de bot-o

247. Drum (a-ndef)supported by a kneeling female figure. Baga Sitemu, mid—late twentieth century. In Conakry in the 1990s, the use of these drums by the members of the rejuvenated a-Telcan organization has increased enormously, in conjunction with increased interest by foreign visitors. Wood, poly-

Reconsiderations on the Responsibilities of Research The current work with the Baga has been most unusual because of the way Baga

chrome, rawhide. H. 104.7cm. Collection Jeremiah Cole, Atlanta. CHAPTER XII • THE PRESENT DILEMMA



248. The late Koumbassa, master carver, Saga Sitemu, of Mardi, originally from Tshalbonto, working in his outdoor studio at Kolabui. Although none of the old carvers from the 1950s remain, many young men are taking up the trade with the hope of reviving the pre-Islamic performative traditions. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

have interacted with the art historian in the research process and the way the researcher's work, in turn, has become pressed into the service of their social agenda. Many Baga clearly view my study of their art history in the context of a Baga cultural (and by corollary political) renaissance, and they see the exhibition and catalogue on the art of the Baga as both an instrument and a manifesto of that renaissance. In producing the first monograph on the Baga and thereby making known the unknown, I am reminded of the words that began this text, written by William Fagg, one of the great founders of African art study: "The Baga... must be accounted one of the most important and at the same time obscure." This obscurity served the Baga well, in both internal and external terms. On the one hand, it enabled them to maintain their insularity against larger, more powerful African groups, through the terrifying mystique of the spiritual unknown. On the other end of the history of their art, the mystery that has surrounded the entire Baga corpus of works has set the Baga apart from such groups as the Dogon or the Yoruba, for example, whose works are situated within a body of scholarly explanation and analysis. With this book, I make the choice to end the mystery in part, and it is a choice made ambivalently. With it, the Baga, and their art, can never be the same. The effects of this research have already been felt in many ways on both sides of the Atlantic. I began to realize the work's impact immediately after my first field trip to Guinea, in 1985. After returning from a brief feasibility study of only six weeks, I was suddenly in demand as a speaker in America and Europe, not because of my years of research among the Temne of Sierra Leone but because of my brief brush with the mysterious Baga. Within the decade that followed, the market values of Saga objects skyrocketed. Collectors, aware that an exhibition was in progress, began newly to collect Baga art, and to apprise me of their acquisitions. Lawsuits were engaged upon between collector, dealer, insurance company, and appraiser, because of the escalating gap between established value and the new market, and the increasing importance of determining authenticity. Whereas objects of Baga art could easily be collected previously, now the well-known works, almost regardless of quality, became unobtainable for the average collector. For the Baga, the category of their lives that is emerging reinvented, that of indigenous Baga ritual, now contains an important new element: the American art historian. I have become a patron of the arts, as the ceremonial organization or the council of elders would have been in the past. I record Baga events on video and in photographs, supplying Baga people with copies as records of their accomplishments. In this transitional period when official policy is still not completely clear, my presence is seen as a valuable buffer against possible government reprisal. My interest in Baga art and culture provides an imprimatur by a representative of the most powerful nation on earth. My appearances on Guinean national television and the customary interviews that appear in the national newspaper help promote the Baga to a greater status in Guinea. The village that hosts the research team acquires a certain prestige, and a competition often arises between villages for our attention. Although I believe that the Baga sincerely enjoy my company, as I do theirs, and see some value in the pure research that engages me,I would risk a serious misunderstanding of their current predicament and the nature of their reinvention if I did not take into account the complex nature of my own position within it. I began the book with some discussion of my entry into the Baga world and of the manner in which the Baga turned my presence to their advantage. While I did not go to Guinea with the objective of stimulating the revival of pre-Islamic Baga culture, the fact is that this is what happened. Finding myself in this position, I felt a great responsibility to assess my role vis-a-vis the Baga today, and to question how I could best serve the purposes of art historical research and those of the Baga as well. Because of my intensive involvement with the artistic and cultural events of the 1980s in Bagaland,


249. Dance of D'mba, Baga Sitemu. Made entirely from memory,this D'mba headdress signals the kind of reinvention of form that has and will accompany the renewed interest by the Baga in regaining something of the magnificence that was. Photo: Frederick Lamp, 1987.

it became obvious that my study would be not simply of the Baga, but of the Baga and our research team, where I became, immediately, the central focus. In effect, the Baga social laboratory became one in which centuries of Baga artistic history were replayed in the space of a few years. Just as they had done over and over again before, the Baga were now using a watershed—the overthrow of an antagonistic government and the coming of a personality with an imprimatur—to redefine and reinvent themselves. Once again, a new phase of representation and meaning certainly must emerge. Prognosis: Innovators, Preservationists and Futurists History is not a repetition, but a continual process, the normal course of events in a chronological movement marking at each step a salient point. At migration, we were powerless, yet we refused to submit, directed by our spirits towards the coast. Then colonization brought servitude without insurrection, but we refused to submit blindly. The gloomy sound of the tali, the infernal rhythm of the drum, the bewitching smell of white palm wine—the Saga remained attached to his sacred forest under the vigilant watch of the supreme divinity, a-Mantsho. Now trumpets and drums beat, interminable discourse CHAPTER XII • THE PRESENT DILEMMA COPYRIGHT PROTECTED



inundates the ears, the flag flutters to the sound of the hymn of liberty—over the picture of history, one reads the letters "Independence." Alas, a way of life then expires; change points to the horizon. Now the politically correct words are: "Our father who is in heaven," and "Allahu akbar." The fires are lighted and the sacred forests are consumed. Now,in our time, the hope of the Baga community—which by fear or by powerlessness had previously simply awaited the verdict of the all powerful Allah—is reborn. Thus, on the scene of life—at the same time actor and spectator—the Baga community makes its own history ("The Baga Youth"). Obviously the cultural complex of behavior, motivations, impulses, resources, and will today identifying a transformed people cannot reproduce the ritual system as it existed at any time prior to the dominance of Islam, Christianity, Marxism, and French/Susu/Malinke social structures. I posed the question to an aged savant at the village of Kawass,"What does the old man think about the disappearance of all that—if they could not be reconstituted a bit, or are they completely gone?" No! They could not be reconstituted, because the elders are dead with their secret. So we, the future generation, we don't know how to reconstitute them—it can't be done. The initiation is no longer done in Baga, but in Susu. One can do nothing now—that no longer exists. If one asks the young men today to go carve the tali [slit gong] that we used to beat in the a-fan [initiation grove], they would be incapable of doing it. No young Baga today could fabricate it. The Baga arts no longer exist....The ritual of the Baga is finished, ended, completely disappeared. Yet if little can be done to reinstitute the ritual structure, the Baga have begun a rapid rebuilding of at least the artistic face of their traditional culture. Other Guinean ethnic groups are also beginning to reexamine their cultural heritage more positively. It remains to be seen how pervasively and how fundamentally the revival will take hold. It is too early to know whether to use the word "renaissance." Still, under a new climate of official good will, cultural pride is clearly coming back throughout the Republic of Guinea, and objective research on art and ritual is now being encouraged. Many Baga see the possibility of improved social conditions accompanying the renewal of the older Baga culture. Djibi Charles Camara, our interpreter and strategist on the team, writes to me often with great hope in what he sees as a personal and communal investment in our research: A bridge has been built on the Kapatchez River and was opened in April 1993. It was an occasion for big dances, a lot of drinking and eating. The group from K'fen in Conakry have a Signal [headdress] at Taouya. It is great seeing them dancing. And the people of Bukor brought a D'mba to Conakry to celebrate a wedding ceremony of two couples. It was fantastic seeing old men dancing. A sports meet, the type we saw in Katongoro in 1992, is happening in Mareri in April 1994. Nineteen Baga villages are invited. And all the old games of the Bagaland will be shown... children playing in the sand ... chanting, comedy, race, wrestling will be on the program. And all this is happening because of the Baga Re-Awakening... (personal communication, 1994).

250. Female dance headdress(D'mba/Yamban). Baga Sitemu/Pukur/Buluiiits, late nineteenth—early twentieth century. One of the most beloved of all Baga headdresses, the D'mba is currently at the center of the Saga cultural revival, and is being copied by young artists for use in dance. Wood, metal. H. 119.4 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago.



A Note on Language and Orthography No dictionary or grammar of the Baga language exists. Several attempts have been made by Guinean students to study specific features of the language (Bangoura 1973, Diassi 1974 [the best], Bah 1978, Kalissa 1984, Soumah 1987), but all are problematic. Limited lexicons appear in Koelle 1854; Arcin 1907; Figarol 1907-12; Houis 1950a, 1950b, 1952, and 1953; and Wilson 1962a and 1962b. No text has been published apart from Houis 1950a; texts and dictionaries have been published, however, in the closely related Temne language of Sierra Leone. My own prior knowledge of Temne has enabled me to construct a grammar and a dictionary of the Baga Sitemu dialect that have guided me in the Baga transcriptions appearing in this book. The phonetic script used here is that recommended by the International African Institute and used in Temne by David Dalby (1965a86, 1966). This script is also used with some consistency in most Temne literature, especially that published by the Provincial Literature Bureau, Bunumbu Press, Bo, Sierra Leone. The Baga language is a concord language, i.e., all nouns receive prefixes that indicate singular or plural uses. I have identified eighteen noun classes. Separable prefixes are separated by a hyphen. I have not separated inseparable prefixes as Dalby does, because such nouns are never used without their prefixes; they function rather like irregular nouns in English, such as "foot, feet." Some notes on pronunciation: a "a" as in "father" (),"open a" as in "alone" or as the in "but" • "ae" as in "great" (£), "open e" as in "let" "i" as in "elite" "i" as in "it" o "o" as in "ozone" o (a), "open o" as the "ou" in "ought" • "u" as in "truth" or as the "oo" in "boot" gb one consonant (labiovelar, voiced plosive) (9)"ng" as in "sing" (velar nasal) • always rolled, as in Spanish (alveolar roll) s, sh (J)are interchangeable ts, tsh (tj)are interchangeable, pronounced almost as "ch" as in "chip" (alveolar, voiceless plosive) th (A), "dth" as in "width," pronounced as one consonant (interdental, voiceless plosive)



Glossary of Baga Sitemu (Including Pukur, Buluilits, and Baga Dialect Variations) Key to Language/Dialect:

Loan Sources:

BLS = Bulufiits PUK = Pukur

Fr = French Ma = Maninka Port = Portuguese Su = Susu

Bkk = Baga Kakissa Bkl = Baga Kalum Bkb = Baga Koba Bmn = Baga Mandori Bst = Baga Sitemu

Alphabetization These letters and phonemes are filed together: a,ä i, I s, sh (I) t, th;(,t,) ts, tsh e, e o, o

a-Bunu ka-gbal-tsa-tsa ka-gbafine Gbenka an-gbip (fi-) ki-gbop-a-Bol



Verbs The prefixes ku-/ki-Ikii- form the Baga infinitive.


Nouns Nouns are alphabetized by the root word, preceded by the singular prefix, and followed by the plural prefix in parentheses. If the prefix is inseparable, the word is alphabetized by the prefix, and the complete plural follows in parentheses. Note: transformations in noun prefixes occur regularly, as there is no written standardization. Thus wi, wa, wu, w', and u, the singular prefixes for terms for human beings, are interchangeable, generally with some agreement with the first letter of the noun root. Some authors may choose to use a single prefix spelling, such as w'. I simply use here the prefix I normally heard with the respective word. Aparan Aparen da-baka tsa-baka wi-baka (a-) a-Bamp (e-) kä-ban wa-ran


Bansonyi am-Bantsho banto a-bafika (tsa-) a-batsha

kä-be (tsha) a-Bemp (-) kä-bere-Tshol

u-be (a-) da-bia u-biki (a-) a-bil (tse-) Boglansh ku-bok a-Bol


to-bol (mo-) to-Born

= a-Mantsho-no-Pon; "the Grandfather" in Katako dialect = a-Mantsho-fio-Pon;"the Grandfather" (in Tolokots) Baga country; the territory of the Baga the Baga language Baga person (Bkl/Bko/Bkk) masquerade with a bird headdress The abduction of a fiancée for marriage; a woman's marriage by choice rather than by family arrangement; practice of stealing other men's wives a masquerade with a headdress composed of a human head, crocodile jaw, antelope horns, chameleon tail, and serpent (Su)= a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol (Bmn/Bkb)= a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol village square; dancing place quartier of a village a rattle tied to the ankles, made of a dried mango with the inside emptied out and the seeds left inside clay water vessel (large or medium size, but bigger than to-bol) with a narrow neck masquerade with a bird headdress (cf. a-Blimp) initiation for young men and women together, usually after kii-kiintsb (Bst), or just for young men, with circumcision (Bmn), where they receive new names king, chief world of the ancestors,(lit., "in the hole") adult, elder canoe, boat, ship name of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon at Tolokots-aligned villages sacrifice to the ancestors; wake, funeral the highest female spirit, with costume representing a huge animal, incorporating the form perhaps of an elephant, tortoise, or house; wife of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon latest arriving clan of the Sitemu; settled only at Bukor. Already Islamized by the Fulbe before their departure for the coast clay tumbler, bowl,small pot, used to hold water or palm wine (Bmn)a small mask that danced with Banda

D'mba-da-Tshol D'mba-do-Pon

masquerade with a headdress in form of the Islamic winged horse al-Wrak, framed in a rectangular open box, with the head of a Baga man the people of Tolkotsh final stage of ka-kiintsb initiation (lit., "to wave the hands"—to say goodbye to a-Mantsho-fio-Pon) marriage (lit., "to carry on the shoulder"); refers only to the man; cf. kii-lo a dance with a mortar held in the teeth and rested on the chest; a society for same, for young men and boys small altar inside sacred house (kii-lo-kä-pon) final ceremony of ka-kiintsb initiation (lit., "to embrace a-Bol) beginning of the final stage of ka-kantsh initiation— the introduction to a-Mantsho-fio-Pon (lit., "to embrace a-Mantsho") masquerade with female dance headdress representing a woman who has borne many children, with large, narrow, prognathous head, long pendant breasts, the entire bust resting on four legs masquerade with female headdress with one eye, one breast. Grotesque and disorderly—counterpart to D'mba 'the Great D'mba"—the sacred D'mba of the elders, as opposed to the popular one


ki-di a-lentshe ki-di-a-Tekan Dudu Dusum-a-be elek (elekel) faka (sä-) ki-fala ta-fala te ki-leka a-fan a-fan Fep do-fura wii-fura (a-) 'nap Kakilambe

ka-kintsh Kanu (Tshanu) wi-karfin (a-) Keke Ketsh Kinson si-ko kola (tshola) Kombo Komne

Koni kor (tshor) Kora Kora do-kos

those initiated to the secrets of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon (lit., "those who have 'eaten' a-Mantsho"—have "swallowed" the ordeal of initiation) a feast that boys prepare with stolen provisions in a forest grove, as a kind of juvenile initiation initiation into a-Telcan (lit., "those who have 'eaten' a-Tekan) (Su) masquerade in which young men wear a male face mask--deformed, ugly, frightening, comic = a-Mantsho-fio-Pon. "Teacher of the chiefs [elder men]" (BLS)= a-Tshol (Port) knife used to cut rice wide basket used for fishing; the winnowing tray basket worn on the head of a new bride during week of wedding ceremonies place of circumcision in ka-kiintsb; sacred grove of young men's initiation divine law; as opposed to tontsb (lit., "the wishes, the (PUK)= a-Bamp of Bkb period of marriage ceremonies for bride bride (Bkb/Bkk)= a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol (Su) = a-Mantsho-fio-Pon. Kaki is the name of a tall tree(gomme copal); lambe means "to climb"; thus something that ranges as tall as the Kaki tree initiation/circumcision (Bst/Bmn) the supreme creator God spiritual being with a negative character (BLS) the organization for young married Bulufiits women;= a-telain in Bst (BLS) = a-Bamp of Bkb generic name for a-Bamp/a-Bemp, Yombofissa, Signal, and Tiyambo, named for carver from Koba box drum—used in dance of Sibondel kola nut (origin of the English word "cola") (PUK)= a-Mantsho-fio-Pon ancestor spirit, male and female, in costume of dried banana leaves or straw worn by boys under the age of fifteen at night during the full moon (Su)= a-Bamp belly; lineage group; extended family; = ku-sunka = a-Mantsho-fia-Tshol (Bkb) God age grade (general term)


Kure kA-leka (tsa-) (wä-) kä-lo disre kä-le•-ka-baki ka-lo-kä-boui ka-lo-kä-kubwe

(Bkl) God; also Kurennasaba (cf. Kurumasaba of Temne) basket given to newly married couple by parents of bride house; marriage (refers only to the woman); cf. kii-gbarine = kor, ku-sunka (lit. "inside the house"); secrets of the family (Bmn)= kä-lo-kii-pon of Bsi (lit., "house of the elders) (BLS)"the great house"; = kii-lo-kii-pon of Bst (BLS)"the house of the elders"; = ka-lo-kii-pein of Bst


simo Simogine ku-so-kop Somtup Sorsorne

ku-sunka (tsha-) a-sut ku-bof kä-tsak (tsa) a-Tako

large sacred house of a family or clan, usually occupied by the lineage elder, containing the sacred objects; a separate miniature house or shed serving the same purpose (lit., "the great house") to-lom (mo-) anything sacred, mask, masquerade, initiation a-Mantsho-lia-Tsemp a-Mantsho-iia-Tshol for young men a-Ma ntsho-iia-Tshol masquerade with serpent headdress worn vertically on top of the head a-Mantsho-iia-Wut children's masquerade with a stick worn vertically on top of the head a-Mantsho-no-Pon highest male spirit, twenty-meter-high raffia costume with bird head at top; husband of a-Bol wu-men (a-) medical practitioner Wilda (Bk1c/Bko/Bk1) the initiation of adult men and women a-mesa (-) (Port) table M'Nyando (Bmn)the organization for the young married women; = a-tekiin in Bst iiach (PUK) medicine; = a-tshol in Bst wä-nde (a-) elder councillor (lit., "he who is seated") wa-nde-do-ro-tshom (-a) elder councillor (lit., "the elder who has the stool" a-ndef a large caryatid drum beaten by women during women's ceremonies such as marriage and christenings te-ndef (me-) the diminutive of a-nclef; usually refers to the drum barrel alone, but also used to refer to the caryatid drum. Drum barrel is also beaten by men a-nden/te-nden (PUK)= a-nelefite-ndef of Bst Nimba (Su/Ma) = D'mba Ninkinaiika a serpent spirit that gives riches to one who masters it kä-iler the "closing of the earth," a time of prohibition enforced by a-Mantsho-fio-Pon or a-Bol during initiation &ink (yolik) spiritual being with a positive character a-pampe (-) largest clay vessel used to hold wine, water, or rice Pantshaman (PUK)a version of a-Mantsho-fio-Pon

do-tshom (su-) Tonke• Tonkongba

wi-pat (a-) Pende-Pende

tonkongba Tumbu

pise ka-Ranka wi-ren (a-) te-Rimi wa-sakumba a-Samantor

sanda kä-sar Sa-Sira-Ren ke-se de-sek (-) sengbe Sibondel


sculptor buffoon masquerade used by boys to scare girls; dances opposite Banda to dance figure with Nimba face; also any figure used in sacred shrines woman a headdress representing a "little chimpanzee" sistrum, normally played by women descendants of Sama,the third of three brothers, who split off from the a-Tako, founding the villages of Bukor, K'fen, and Kalaktshe ornament of bells tied around the legs (Bkk) the name of the young men's initiation; funeral ritual (lit., "stone") masquerade with headdress in the form of a female bust, representing an unmarried woman with firm breasts iron gong knocked with an iron ring on finger elephant tusk used as a navel drum drum with cords stretched along sides masquerade with a headdress in form of a box frame with a rabbit's head on the front, and with figures standing on the top of the box frame (Fr)(pronounced "Sinyal") masquerade with female bust with serpent crest braids


Tantshampan wi-tshar (a-) a-Tekan ta-Tern wu-Them wi-Tembra kan-tsemp (tsan-)

Ter a-Tfin Tikro timba Tiyambo a-Tshol (Tshol)

a-tshol (tshol) a-Tshol ña Bapsa ka-Tom

Turika Wakarba a-Warna Wekiya-Wekiya wololo

Yamban Yamban-Slach Wilkes Yokui Yonbofissa Zigiren-Woncle


(Su) anything sacred, mask, masquerade, initiation (Su) = Zigiren-Wende ritual before farming begins (lit., "to pierce the plow") name of a-Mantsho-iio-Pon at Katako-aligned villages masquerade with fiber costume and wooden headdress resembling Tiyambo, used by youths (lit., "Rise up, rise up") lineage group; = kor the first age group of little boys staff used by boys in kä-kiintsh the people of Katako, Mardi, and Kaklentsh, with relationship to the people of Kamsar and Tshalbonto huge slit gong used at the young men's initiation coming-out; differs from the Susu kith": in that it has only one long opening at the top and the ends are closed a children's masquerade made of found materials slave the organization for the young married women (Bkb)"the old man"; = a-Mantsho-iia-Tshol "the old man"; = a-Mantsho-lio-Pon "the old woman";= a-Bol a heavy drum the size and shape of a mortar, used in bands, hide at both ends, strings along sides; suspended by a cord slung over the shoulder a powerful organization for adult men of lower ranking clans the people of Katongoro and Kawass masquerade with ugly black mask of old man with beard, invented in 1980s, used in expiation dance huge drum supported by figures, played by men at the coming out of initiates from kä-bere-Tshol masquerade with female bust headdress with horns human/beaked head on socle, used as guardian figure for male initiation, as a healing device by healers, and as a dance headdress with no costume medicine; may be a bottle of sacred water, wood, kola nut, piece of bark, etc. (Bmn)= Tonkongba in Bst a late-arriving clan that settled at Katako, Tolkotsh and Katongoro; Keita is their surname stool, used for the seating of lineage heads = Tonkongba; term used at Kamsar and Tshalbonto horizontal wooden headdress, with snout, oblong head, and horns in an almond shape radio masquerade with headdress worn horizontally (resembling Banda), with horns parallel to face, and with long ears; danced to force a new bride to copulate with groom; mask is responsible for keeping the family united (PUK)= a-Tshol masquerade with huge costume of leaves, used in boys' kä-di-Wakiirba initiation (Bmn)the organization for the young married women; a-tikan in Bst = Komne in Katako, Mardi, and Kaklentsh an expression of grief, sorrow, sympathy, or surprise; sometimes said sarcastically, or in amusement; an exclamation as "Oh my God!," "Good grief!," or "Oh dear" (PUK)= D'mba (PUK)= D'mba-da-Tshol (Bkk) the female companion to the male serpent headdress Imp; resembled Pantshaman (Su) = Sa-Sira-Ren masquerade with female bust headdress with long hair (Bkk) masquerade with female bust headdress with long breasts and two "legs" (lit., "the new bride")

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Photo Credits Photographs used as illustrations within the text are credited in the captions. Photographs of the objects are courtesy of the respective lenders or credited as follows: William Brill Collection, The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, Leonard and Judith Kahan Collection, Fred and Rita Richman Collection, Beatrice Riese Collection, Mark Seidenfeld Collection, Private Collection, by Jerry L. Thompson. Jean-Jacques and Michile-Berthe Foumel Collection, Paris, by Beatrice Hatala. Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, by Denis J. Nervig. Jacques S. Gansler Collection, by Mark Gulezian. Marc and Denyse Ginzberg Collection, Donald and Florence Morris Collection, and Private Collection, Toledo, by Dirk Bakker. Edith Halter Collection, by Ernst Winizki. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Herman Collection, by Philip Brakefield. Historisches Museum, Bern, by Stefan Rebsamen. Howard University Gallery of Art, by Jarvis Grant. Indiana University Art Museum, by Michael Cavanagh/Kevin Montague. Gene L. Isaacson Collection, by Gene Ogami. Frederick Lamp Collection, by Frederick Lamp. The Menil Collection, by HickeyRobertson, Houston. Herbert and Paula Molner Collection, by Michael Tropea. Music des Arts d'Afrique et d'Ocianie, by Agence Photographique de la Reunion des Musics Nationaux. Musics de la Ville de Poitiers et de la sociiti des antiquaires de l'Ouest, by Thierry Blais. Musee de l'Homme, by R. Asselbergho. National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Richard Kahane Collection, Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, by Franko Khoury. Private Collection, Antwerp, Belgium, by Sotheby Parke Bernet. Stichting Afrikacentrum, by Chris Keulen. Jeffrey Swanson Collection, by Eduardo Caldiroi. Volkerkundemuseum der Universitat, by P. Nebel. Yale University Art Gallery, by P. Homer. Drawings by Y. Pranishnikoff(Coffiniires de Nordeck 1886), microfilm, Documentation photographique de la RMN.

Sinayoko,Sacoba 1937 "Quelques Coutumes, `Baga-Fore'." Education Africaine (Dakar) XXVI(98):220 —25. Sorry, Georges Pascal 1975 Le Christianisme: Instrument &intrusion et d'implantation coloniale au Rio-Pongo du XIXeme an XXime aide. Memoire de Diplome de Fin d'Etudes Superieures, Institut Polytechnique Gamal Abdel Nasser, Conakry. Suret-Canale,Jean 1970 La Republique de Guinee. Editions Sociales, Paris. Thomas, Northcote W. 1970 Anthropological Report on Sierra Leone(1916). Negro Universities Press, Westport, Conn. "Traditions et Coutumes BAGA" 1950 La Galin& Francaise. No.4/113 (August 10).


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Frances 8c Benjamin Benenson Foundation Dade Community Foundation Puget Sound Fund of the Tides Foundation Aaron Diamond Foundation Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation Gulton Foundation, Inc.

Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation The Irene Diamond Fund,Inc. The Max 8c Victoria Dreyfus Foundation LEF Foundation Peter Norton Family Foundation The Robert & Phyllis Tishman Speyer Family Foundation, Inc H. van Ameringen Foundation

The Bernhill Fund The Bohen Foundation Buhl Family Foundation The Charles E. Culpeper Foundation Peter B. Lewis Philanthropic Foundation Robert E. & Judith 0. Rubin Foundation Silverman Charitable Trust The Laura S. & Jonathan M.Tisch Foundation,Inc. The Travelers Foundation Noah-Sadie K. Watchel Foundation, Inc. Steven Rattner 8c P. Maureen White Foundation, Inc.

Corporate Donors

Board of Trustees


Revlon Group,Inc. Sotheby's RJR Nabisco

Jane Frank Katcher Irwin Smiley Co-Chairs

Evelyn Diaz Reception

American Express Company C. S. First Boston Chase Manhattan Bank Con Edison Dime Savings Bank Donaldson, Lufkin, 8c Jenrette Securities Corporation European American Bank Goldman Sachs & Co. Edward S. Gordon Company Hallmark Entertainment Kohn Pederson Fox Associates PC Merrill Lynch 8c Co. Foundation, Inc. Pfizer Inc J.P. Morgan & Co., Inc. Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons,Inc. Weil, Gotshal 8c Manges LLP The Xerox Foundation

Abernathy, MacGregor and Scanlon Arthur Andersen LLP Jerry Blickrnan, Inc. Essence Communications, Inc. NYNEX Philip Morris Companies, Inc. The Prudential Reader's Digest Association, Inc. "rime Warner Inc.

Duracell International Inc. Capital Cities, IncJABC CBS Inc. Christie's Fletcher Asset Management,Inc. IBM Corporation Island Trading Company,Inc. The Hearst Corporation Tommy Hilfiger, Inc. McGraw-Hill NBC Northern Trust North General Prodigy Sony Music Entertainment Inc. United Technologies Corporation Uniworld Group Viacom International Inc. The Xerox Foundation

Current as of August 30, 1996

Kathryn McAuliffe Vice Chair Barry Lites Secretary Richard Faletti Assistant Secretary Lofton P. Holder,Jr. Treasurer Corice Canton Arman Charles B. Benenson Sherry Bronfinan Allison S. Davis Lawrence Gussman A. Eugene Kohn Lee Lorenz William Lynch,Jr. Rodney Miller John Morning Don H. Nelson James J. Ross Robert Rubin Marianne Camille Spraggins Jason Wright

Bernard Saunders Chief of Security Siewdass Arjoonsingh Fitz Caesar Tammy Farmer Lawrence Kendle Lear Riojas Winston Rodney Security Francisco Ramos Building Manager Johanna Cooper Events Coordinator

PUBLIC RELATIONS Victoria Benitez Director ofPublic Relations

RETAIL AND ADMISSIONS Tamela Allen Museum Store Manager


Raquel Billings Carolyn Evans Frank Lewis Admissions

Grace C. Stanislaus Executive Director



Carol Braide Executive Assistant/ Publications Coordinator

Lois Henderson Yumiko Ito Michele James Mary Ann Jung Olive Kelsey Lee Krueckeberg Alice Leite Frank Lewis Moniques Littles Renee Marino Blanca Martinez Elizabeth Moran Xavier Rivera Aielianna Ross Naeemah Shareef Helene Tissieres Quetzali Torres Rosalyn Weinstein Alexandria Mishell Wood Guirlande Zetrenne Docents

Marjorie Ransom Coordinator of Volunteers Brandi Gaudet Development Volunteer

CURATORIAL Frank Herreman Director of Exhibitions Carol Thompson Associate Curator Elizabeth Bigham Assistant Curator Linda Karsteter Registrar

DEVELOPMENT Danielle Amato Milligan Director of Development Maryellen Klein Membership Coordinator

EDUCATION Leon Waller Director of Education Muniania Lubangi Education Assistant

FINANCE Mohibur Rob Assistant Bookkeeper

Shawn Alexander Ambah Callender Claude De Backer Sharon Jacobs Christopher Logan Wangechi Mum Education Interns Cherie Bassett Vita Dalrymple Mary Ann Jung Juanita Wimberly Museum Store Volunteers Mia Chen Christine Smith Curatorial/Public Relations/ Registrarial Volunteer Ron Abernathy Gail Ahye Cherie Bassett Laverne Bruce Shelby Burgess Ambah Callendar Patricia Canson Mia Chen Mark Chenault Kathleen Culhane Claudia Danies Margaret Duval Dwana Farrell Alexandra Fischer June Gaddy Brandi Gaudet Lisa Hammel


• ISBN 0-945802-18-8




10012 II



11111 II

9 780945 802181

Profile for The Africa Center

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