The D’mba headdress of the Baga people of Guinea West Africa was first recognized and recorded by Europeans in 1886, yet definitive understanding of D'mba remains elusive.[i] There are several reasons for the enigma surrounding D’mba’s meaning and function. First, the Europeans that initially encountered her relied on the Susu people of the region to name and describe her. That is the reason why she is still referred to by the name of Nimba, which is the Susu word for “great spirit,” and why she is considered a “spirit” in the West.

For the Baga people, she is not a spirit or a deity. The Susu described her as such for lack of a better way to communicate the enormity of her presence in the Baga culture.[ii] There was also a shift in the ways that the Baga people engaged in their traditional rituals during the last century’s wave of Islamic conversion in West Africa and of the Baga themselves.[iii] Their initial migration out of the inland mountain regions toward the coast was, in fact, a resistance to Islam and, as with all oral traditions, primary source documentation regarding the culture is scarce.[iv]

The ambiguity surrounding D’mba is a necessary component when, as argued here, she is viewed as an expression of the Great Mother archetype defined by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Read more....The%20Baga%20D%27mba.pdf