African Art

Headdress Representing a Female Spirit (Tiyambo)

mid-20th century

Wood, yarn, fiber, nails, and pigment

20 1/2 × 6 7/8 × 7 7/8 in. (52 × 17.5 × 20 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
The wide-eyed facial expression and the cicatrization marks of two strokes on each cheek mark this sculpture as characteristically Baga. The bust is worn on top of the head in dance, representing a character known as Yombofissa. Curiously, this figure has been overpainted black, probably by a dealer, to make it look more “African.” Its original red paint, seen underneath the black, is a Baga artistic convention that identifies this Baga woman as a Europeanized person of the twentieth century. This form of sculptural headdress originated only around 1935, and it is always painted with commercial oil paints.
20th century

Cornelis Pieter Meulendijk, Rotterdam: unknown dates
possibly Jeremiah Cole, Los Angeles and Atlanta, unknown dates
Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Susan Vogel, Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art, exh. cat. (New York: Museum for African Art, 1991), 82–83, no. 15, fig. 15.

Afrikaanse sculpturen uit de collectie van C. P. Meulendijk, exh. cat. (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Museum voor Land- en Volkenkunde, 1967-1968), 38, 61, no. 1/01, ill.

Christie’s London, London, Christie’s: The Meulendijk Collection of Tribal Art, Part 1, sale cat. (October 21, 1980), 10, lot 3, ill.

Renee Wassing, African Art: Its Background and Traditions (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1968), 242, no. 34, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Reinvention, exh. cat. (New York: Museum for African Art, 1996), 214, no. 204.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, “Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): 39, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 238, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.