TRIBAL AFRICAN ART

NALU

Nalu, a relatively small tribe, live at the coastal lagoons of Guinea-Bissau close to better known Baga tribe. They grow rice in this marshy area flooded six months of the year, during which time the only way to get around is by a dugout canoe. Nalu has a powerful male association whose emblem is the bansonyi, a large sculpted, colored wooden snake, which comes out of the forest when young boys reach the age of initiation. Another dramatic masquerade is known as banda. Originally banda mask was considered a very dangerous being, who appeared in times of crisis to protect human lives. Beyond this, harvest festivals, marriages, adolescent initiations, and the funerals of important persons, provided opportunities for banda mask dances. Today these dances are performed only rarely, and solely for entertaining purposes. Banda masks, sometimes very large, are decorated with a variety of painted patterns and combine human and animal traits. The elongated face with prominent eyes and hooked nose is based on the snout of a crocodile. The head ornaments, on the other hand, blend a woman’s coiffure with the horns and ears of an antelope, a chameleon’s tail, and a snake body. The mask was considered as crafty as a crocodile, and as it was danced, it created the impression of being able to fly, creep, and swim. The masqueraders during their performance wore the mask nearly horizontally, on top of the head, and their bodies were entirely concealed by an elaborate costume made of plant fibers. 

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