Of Mende origin, John Goba was born into the hermetic milieu of the Sande Society (otherwise known as the Bondo Society, a women’s association largely found in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea) of which his grandmother played a significant role. Following his customary initiation – a rite of passage for the Sante people, he settled in Mountain Cut, a district in Freetown. It was here that he underwent a revelatory experience, prompting him to begin producing masks for the Ode-lay initiation rituals and masquerades that had sprung up in Freetown in the 1970s.
Evoking traditional lore and mysteries of his environment, Goba’s sculptural works reveal a composite of hybrid forms borrowed from mythical tales and personal imaginings. For Goba, porcupine quills hold particularly gravity, and often invariably protrude from the figures of his tableaux. Notably this implements a symbolic order of self-protection against deeper incursion into its subjects, tantalising the viewer with what Goba refers to as a ‘private history to which only the artist has the key’.