The potential for masked performers to become aggressive is a fundamental part of Kuba masquerade, and it is a reflection of the influence of the unpredictable nature of ngesh on Kuba masked dancers.
Tribe: Kuba/Tetela border
Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo
Approx Age: 1950s
Materials: Wood, metal, raffia, cowrie shells
Dimensions cm: 29 tall x 21 wide x 14 depth excluding head adornment
Ref. Number: 1612
A very stunning, old and unusual Kuba mask from D.R.Congo. The hooded coiffure holds this mask on the head perfectly which is made from raffia like the textiles made, the metal adornments around the eyes and mouth are possibly Tetela influence, as this mask does carry both Kuba and Tetela traits, so most likely a crossover.
Provenance: Private collection, United Kingdom, acquired whilst deployed with MSF in the 1970’s in Central Africa
Kuba arts primarily address status, prestige, and the court; they are manifestations of the social and political hierarchy.
Rank and wealth are expressed in extensive displays of regalia: jewellery, rich garments of embroidered raffia cloth, ceremonial knives, swords, drums, and elaborated utilitarian items. Valuable imported cowrie shells and beads
embellish garments, furniture, baskets, and masks.
The outstanding Kuba style diagnostic is geometric patterning used to embellish the surfaces of many objects. These designs are woven into raffia textiles and mats, plaited in walls, executed in shell and bead decoration, and incised on bowls, cups, boxes, pipes, staffs, and other forms including masks. All art forms and designs are laden with symbolic and iconographic meaning, and the same is true of the rich Kuba masquerades.
Masking was first introduced by a woman who carved a face on a calabash, the original model for initiation masks. The invention was taken over by men, incorporated into initiation, and remains a male privilege. Once Bushong boys move into the nkan initiation shelter, they can wear masks and make excursions into the village frightening women and small children. More powerful masks are worn by initiation officials. The masked Kuba dancer is, in every instance, a spirit manifestation.
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