Pende Mask – D.R. Congo

After being displaced from their former homeland in Angola by territorial expansion by the Lunda, the Pende resettled in D.R. Congo as two distinct but unified groups: western and eastern. The traditions of the western Pende include a group of over twenty danced masks known as mbuya, which personify a variety of village characters.  Once used during mukanda initiation ceremonies to mark the end of circumcision rituals, mbuya masquerades now entertain the community during non-ritual festivities. Some mbuya share very similar features and can be difficult to differentiate without their full raffia dance costume and regalia.

The mbuya presented here, known as fumu, represents a chieftan. It offers a stern countenance with a highly protuberant forehead; strong, unified brow; high cheekbones; and downturned mouth revealing teeth. Atop its head is attached a roughly textured coiffure or hat with three large backward-slanting points, emphasizing the mask’s fierce aura. The cheeks bear triangular motifs that echo similar triangle patterns found on other mbuya, and which may be linked with powers of fertility.

 

Late 19th or early 20th century
Wood, fiber, hair
17” h
Provenance: Arman Collection, New York
#554
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