Pende Mbuya Mask

Mbuya masks are worn by male youths in Mukanda initiation association ceremonies.

Tribe: Pende

Origin: Democratic Republic of Congo

Approx Age: 1970

Materials: Wood and plant fibre

Dimensions cm: 36 tall to spike x 34 widest points

Ref. Number: 1492


A lovely Pende Mbuya mask, surmounted by a high four-pointed hat composed of raffia strands and cloth showing use and age, the face with a domed forehead above heavy eyelids covering pierced eyes, the raised cheekbones accented with raised half moon shaped designs, a sloping, pointed nose with pierced nostrils, an open mouth with raised lips fine aged surface enhanced with dark brown pigments. The raffia around the chin has worn a hole which now the stand sits through to display which is also included.

Provenance: Ex-Private UK Collection


Mbuya village masks are used to entertain a community during non-ritual festivities. Once used during mukanda initiation ceremonies to mark the end of male circumcision rituals, mbuya masquerades are now used to highlight a number of characters and roles in Pende society. There are two main groups of masks used during festivals.

One of the many mbuya masks performed at community festivities is the gambanda ‘young woman’ mask (which forms part of a collection of female masks known as mbuya ya mukhetu – ‘the woman’s mask’; called kambanda among the Eastern Pende). Some sources point to gambanda representing the calm, obedient and beautiful wife of the Chief (fumu) while others state that gambanda is instead a representation of the Pende ideal for femininity and beauty and is considered a suitable wife for a high-ranking Pende male.

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