REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Republic of Guinea
YEAR PRINTED: 1965
VALUE: 15 Guinean francs

This stamp is one of a set of five issued by the government of Guinea in 1965 to celebrate the traditional masquerades of the country. The mask depicted is of an unknown type and ethnicity.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Republic of Guinea
YEAR PRINTED: 1965
VALUE: 1 Guinean franc

This stamp is one of a set of five issued by the government of Guinea in 1965 to celebrate the traditional masquerades of the country. The mask depicted is of an unknown type and ethnicity.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Republic of Guinea
YEAR PRINTED: 1965
VALUE: 40 Guinean centimes

This stamp is one of a set of five issued by the government of Guinea in 1965 to celebrate the traditional masquerades of the country. This mask represents a mask of the Kono people who inhabit Guinea and eastern Sierra Leone.

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TITLE: Baga Ancestor Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Guinea
ETHNICITY: Baga
DESCRIPTION: Ancestor Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown
AGE: ca. 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Baga people of the Guinea swamp lands traditionally maintained animist beliefs revolving around a creator god named Kanu, until most were converted to Islam following the introduction of colonialism in West Africa. For a period, the Baga mingled Islamic with animist traditions.  They were governed by traditional lineages and the Simo Initiation Society.  Their best known masks from this period were relatively abstract. Large shoulder masks (N’mba) representing women, and or tall snake spirits (Bansonyi) were used in Simo Society initiation rituals, funerals, weddings, and other major social events.

At independence in 1958, the new Islamic-Marxist Guinea government tried to extinguish Baga cultural identity, and masking traditions all but disappeared until 1984, when a coup liberalized the country. Many members of Baga society began reintroducing animist rituals, but much of the old culture has been lost. Virtually nothing is known about ancestor masks such as this one.

For more on Baga masking traditions, see Frederick Lamp, Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention (New York: Museum for African Art, 1996).

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