Shark fin shoulder mask

20th century, 1950–2000
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Bissagos Islands, Guinea Bissau


Overall: 62 x 61 x 12.5 cm (24 7/16 x 24 x 4 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, pigment, braided plant fiber, nails

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



This shark’s dorsal fin displays colorful designs, including the outlines of a shark and possibly a ray. Worn on the masker’s back, it was part of a shark costume that belonged to the young men in the cabaro age group. The men brought a variety of sea creatures to life in their performances, enacting the relationship to the sea that provided their livelihood.


1973, sold by the 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