Requires Photography

Serpent Figure Headdress(bansonyi)

20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Guinea


Overall: 175 x 18 x 20 cm (68 7/8 x 7 1/16 x 7 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

wood, paint

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Decorative arts

This serpent headdress, known as “master of medicine”, is one of the most important figures in Baga cosmology. The serpent is associated with water, rainbows, fertility and wealth and can manifest itself as a being with human features. Spiritually potent objects such as this one could only be used by secret societies and clan heads because of the object’s association with male esoteric knowledge. The serpent headdress was also used for entertainment purposes and initiation rituals.


1960, sold by the Galerie Carrefour, 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