D’mba Female Headdress
Wood, pigment, upholstery nails ca. 20th century
H. 44 x W. 17 in. approximately
The D’mba Headdress is a widely known symbolic mask characterized by a prominent nose, protruding chin, strong neck, and elongated breasts. Historically worn during times of life cycle rituals, this D’mba headdress is indicative of childbearing and nurturing. The mask represents the ideal picture of mature motherhood. When identified as a “mother of the poro child,” the sculpture celebrates the authority and leadership of poro elders who are considered the metaphorical mothers.
In ceremonies, a tall dancer will typically put the mask over their shoulders and hold it by the bottom of the front legs. The neck and head show up very high off the ground, while the cloth and raffia completely hide the dancer’s body from the viewers. The D’mba is activated at weddings, births, wakes, ancestral rituals, harvest festivals, and welcoming ceremonies. Poro refers to a central social institution to which all men within the region belong.