The Baga shoulder mask is the most colossal African dance mask, measuring about 1.30 m high and weighing in the region of 60 Kg. Designed to be placed on the shoulders, it has the shape of the monumental bust of a woman. The holes for the eyes are drilled between the breasts. A textile skirt clung to the rings is still increasing the weight of this equipment that can only be danced by a strong man.
Experts differ about the original meaning, mystic or festive, of these masks that accompany weddings and harvests. The head shape is very specific with a long chin and a strong nose, although this model was realized over time by various artists.
Named D'mba masks by the Baga, they became a symbol of African art and of fertility.
Picasso was fascinated by one of those masks that he owned. His appeal from Marie-Thérèse Walter at random in a Parisian street is due to the strong nose of the young blonde who unwittingly demonstrated to him that the feminine ideal can be multi-racial. Pablo exploited this idea in his first sculpted busts of his muse.
The D'mba mask remained a centerpiece of Guinean folklore. In February 2015, the Baga community made a request for it to be listed as World Heritage by UNESCO.
One of those pieces that belonged to the Vérité collection was sold for € 2.25 million including premium by Enchères Rive Gauche on June 17, 2006. This mask is estimated € 1.5M for sale by Christie's in Paris on June 23, lot 42. It is one of the three lots introduced by the auction house in the video below, including the Rubin Kota previously discussed in this column.