Shark fin shoulder mask

African, Guinea Bissau, Bidjogo peoples
20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Guinea Bissau


Height x width: 21 1/4 x 3 3/4 in. (54 x 9.5 cm)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, paint, braided plant fiber, nails

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



The Bidjogo live on the Bissagos Islands off the coast of Guinea Bissau. This shark fin appendage was worn on the shoulder and was part of a larger dance costume worn by young men being initiated into adulthood. The newly initiated warriors wore heavy costumes representing sharks, crocodiles, and other animals that posed a threat to canoes.


1977, sold by Galerie Majestic, Paris to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart