Bidjogo Corubá, Ceremonial Back Adornment

Bijago also known as Bissagos, Bojagos, Anaki, Bidjogo, Bidyogo, and Bujagos are an ethnic group which can be encountered only in Guinea Bissau. The Bijagos islands are the only deltaic archipelago on the Atlantic coast of Africa and it comprises 80 islands and covers an area of nearly 10,000 km off the coast of Guinea Bissau.

Bidjogo Dance Pectoral

Tribe: Bidjogo / Bijogo / Bidyogo

Origin: Formosa Island, Bissagos Islands,  Guinea Bissau

Approx Age: Early-Mid-20th Century

Materials: Wood, raffia

Dimensions cm: 32 wide x 24 tall not including the stand.

Ref. Number: 1836


A lovely rare Bidjogo ceremonial dance adornment for wearing on the back of a dancer known as “Corubá”, from the large ex-collection of Rony Rey, London. It is styled with a traditional bird and two smaller birds on either side with four decorated discs surrounding it. Woven raffia-type rope to hold together to use as an adornment, the pictures below it show these adornments being worn on the rear of the initiate’s costume.

Provenance: Ex-Romy Rey Collection, London.

AHDRC Object ao-0198972-001


Off the shore of Guinea Bissau lie about thirty islands that comprise the Bijago (Bissagos) archipelago. The Bijago are known from early chroniclers’ accounts for their daring raids on shipping along the African coast using huge canoes. The economy of the archipelago is based on the cultivation of rice, palm oil, and on fishing. The society is highly structured by means of institutions such as matrilinear clans, the council of elders, age classes, and the priestess. Age groups cover about seven levels among males from infancy to old age. Martial virtues were cultivated by an age-set system that associated young men with powerful beasts of the sea and land. The Bijago society continues to practice its many religious rituals. Among these, are male initiations, which today may not exceed two months, but formerly ran over several years, and the women’s, which characteristically consist of offering access to adult status for boys who have died before being initiated. This is a recuperative initiation, performed by women who are possessed by the spirit of the deceased. The matriarchal order was so strong that the women selected their men and could force divorce on their husbands, the man keeping the children.

The sculptor is a voluntarily engaged artisan who, through his periodic activity in connection with ceremonies of initiation and worship, is familiar with numerous secrets. Each villager may sculpt initiation masks, head decorations, statuettes, vessels, and so on. The heaviest masks are worn by the age group that is not yet considered an adult. These represent, in a realistic manner, marine animals or wild bulls. While young boys might wear calf and fish masks, older uninitiated youths wear those depicting wild bulls, sharks, hippopotami and swordfish. Their dances are unpredictable and violent to accord with the character of the animal represented and their own undomesticated nature. The masks are worn either on top of the head or in front of it. The dancers imitate these dangerous animals that symbolize beings that are still untamed, as they have not been initiated. The masks are danced by boys and young men during the ceremonies that precede and follow the phases of initiation. Besides ritual occasions, nowadays they also appear in secular contexts, on days that commemorate historical events, and when important people visit.

Bijago Pectoral

Contact Exquisite African Art

3 + 9 =

+44 (0)1507 328026

Follow us

Subscribe to our mailing list

Website Design by Midas Creative

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This