The Baga people live in the coastal lowlands of Guinea. They belong to separate tribes sharing extensive cultural characteristics (from north to south of present-day Guinea): the Mandori, the Sitemu, the Pukur, the Bulunits, the Kakissa (or Sobané), the Koba, and the Kalum. They are also closely related to the inland Landuma, to the Nalu of Guinea-Bissau and to the Temne of Sierra Leone with whom they share linguistical roots.
In addition to the Baga languages, most of the Baga also speak the Mande language Susu, the regional trade language. Two Baga communities are known to have abandoned their language altogether in favour of Susu, namely the Sobané and Kaloum (needs citation).
Early modern history
According to Baga oral tradition, the Baga originated in Guinea's interior highlands and were driven by aggressive neighbors westward to the coastal swamplands. Nevertheless they are considered "first-comers" along the many areas of the Upper Guinea coast, and accrued landlords rights in consequence of this.:5-6 Here they constituted an acephalous society comprising a series of autonomous communities.:21 They were principally involved in the cultivation of rice and kola nut, and the production of salt. From the sixteenth century the development of Portuguese trade routes extending down from further north reached the region, which had simultaneously attracted trade routes from the hinterland. This new economic activity attracted new settlers to the area and led to the transformation of the society. Portuguese settlers, primarily Lancados, integrated into the evolving multi-ethnic society by marrying the daughters of Baga chiefs, some coming to assume the role of political leaders and establishing ruling dynasties. Thus for example there arose the Gomez and Fernandez Dynasties.:301 They were subsequently followed by English and American traders, generally involved in the slave trade. Meanwhile, the Susu were also migrating into the area and establishing dominance in land-based trade, and at some time in the eighteenth century the Imamate of Futa Jallon established some sort of soveriegnty over the area: They stationed a santigi in Bara, where he collected tribute.:6
The advent of French colonialism
In the late 19th century, Guinea became a French colony and Baga culture began to erode under Roman Catholicism. The situation was aggravated after Guinea's independence in 1958, when the Islamic-Marxist Government confiscated and destroyed all Baga icons and outlawed non-Muslim religious practices. Only after Sekou Toure' death in 1984 did Baga culture began to reemerge as an affirmation of tribal identity.
Baga ritual art, such as the "D'mba" (or "Nimba") headress, has been widely shown in western museums.
Baga Sculpture Louvre Museum
- Mouser, Bruce (2002). "Who and Where Were the Baga? European Perceptions from 1793 to 1821". History in Africa 29: 337–364. doi:10.2307/3172168.
- Mouser, Bruce L. (2013). American Colony on the Rio Pongo. Trenton: Africa World Press. ISBN 978-1592219292.
- Brooks, George E. (2003). Eurafricans in western Africa : commerce, social status, gender and religious observance from the sixteenth to eighteenth century (1. publ. ed.). Oxford: James Currey. ISBN 978-0852554890.
- Mouser, Bruce L. (2002) “Who and where were the Baga?: European perceptions from 1793 to 1821,” History in Africa, 29, 337–364.
- Cotter, Holland "A Culture Ignored Except for Its Icons" New York Times, October 25, 1996
- Hair E. H. P., (1997). The History of Baga in Early Written Sources. History in Africa, 24, 381-391.
- Knorr, J., & Trajano Filho, W. (Eds.). (2010). The Powerful Presence of the Past: Integration and Conflict Along the Upper Guinea Coast. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
- Lamp F, (1986). The Art of Baga: A Preliminary Inquiry. African Arts, 19 (2), 64-67+92.
- For spirits and kings: African art from the Paul and Ruth Tishman collection, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on the Baga people