Masks and headdresses
in the collection of antique, classical, ethnic, ethnographic, ethno-tribal, native, ritual, traditional, tribal, so-called "primitive" art from Sub-Saharan black Africa

Many African societies see masks as mediators between the living world and the supernatural world of the dead, ancestors and other entities. Masks became and still become the attribute of a dressed up dancer who gave it life and word at the time of ceremonies.
In producing a mask, a sculptor's aim is to depict a person's psychological and moral characteristics, rather than provide a portrait.
The sculptor begins by cutting a piece of wood and leaving it to dry in the sun; if it cracks, it cannot be used for a mask. African sculptors see wood as a complex living material and believe each piece can add its own feature to their work. Having made certain the wood is suitable, the sculptor begins, using an azde to carve the main features, a chisel to work on details and a rough leaf to sand the piece.
He then paints the mask with pigments such as charcoal (to give a black colour), powders made from vegetable matter or trees (for ochre/earth tones) or mineral powders like clay (to give a white colour).
African peoples often symbolize death by the colour white rather than black; at the same time, many African cultures see white as the colour that links them to their ancestors, and it can therefore have a positive meaning.

The second face.

I am not myself.

According to the anthropologist Frank Herreman:
One of the most dramatic manners whereby the contact between humans and the supernatural acquires a visible form is at the moment that spirits under the form of masks appear. According to our understanding, the mask is a means of partially or wholly covering the face or the body to render it unrecognisable, and through which the masker acquires another identity. In large parts of the world the original function – associated with the supernatural – has declined, and masking has evolved into a form of profane recreation coming to the fore only once or at most a few times per year, for example during carnival. In West and Central Africa, the function of a number of masks has remained much closer to its original significance. Consequently, such masks still manifest at crucial moments during the cycle of the seasons, and within the course of an individual’s life cycle as well. The mask wearer in this context is, therefore, a more important person than someone who masks for purely recreational motives. In the African context the mask wearer is always an initiated person whose identity is not made known. He undergoes not only a physical, but also a psychic transformation. He comes under the spell of the spirit that he incarnates, and one believes that he so disposes of the supernatural characteristics of the latter. Since the supernatural stands outside the law of the living, one supposes that the mask acts according to its own whimsy. In these acts, however, sits a structure that is dictated by the priest, the magician, the society, the elders, or other forms of the power structure. They must watch over the observance of religious rules, the common law, and the maintenance of various rituals which must be carried out within the scope of events in life’s cycle. Thus, the masks are important instruments that aid in the consolidation of the position of power of the various authority structures.

The attributions of the origin of the objects shown is based on their stylistic and physical characteristics and/or on the data provided by the seller and/or experts, but of course certainty cannot be reached.

The objects shown variable age, artistic quality, and degree of authenticity.

Some of the pieces are available for exchange for instance, due to an increasing lack of space.

 


Angola or Zambia or Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

Bachaukwe / Bachokwe / Badjok / Bajokwe / Bakjokwe / Batshioko / Batsjokwe / Chaukwe / Chokwe / Ciokwe / Cokwe / Djok / Djokwe / Jokwe / Kioko / Kiokue / Quioco / Shioko / Tchokwe / Tschokwe / Tsjokwe / Tshokwe / Tsjaukwe / Tshioko / Tsonge / Tuchokwe / Watschiwokwe  tribe/people

mwanaphwo / mwanapwo / mwanapwevo / mwana phwo / mwana pwo / mwano pwo / pwo / phwo / pwevo / p'wo face masks

This type of mask represents the archetypal, ideal young female beauty.
Most pieces show

About the tattoos the following has been written:

Some masks have white kaolin around the eyes, which may represent the ability to see into spiritual realms.

In some masks including one shown here, the eyes are placed in large, concave sockets.

This type of mask is used to teach newly circumcised boys during their initiation rites/ceremonies and during other important occasions to bring fertility and prosperity to the village.
They were danced with older and wise male counterparts, named Tchihongo.
The rites are very exclusive and they are conducted in a private lodge outside the village. They learn secrets about mask rituals which women are forbidden to know, sex education (including proper ways to relate to women, and skills needed to support a family).
Exactly how this mask is used in the ceremonies is unknown.
It probably represents the woman/mother from which every boy is taken away, a physical and mental separation, as part of the initiation rite. The roles of the boys as children are killed, and they are reborn as men in society, independent from their mothers.
A costume of roots covers the dancer completely.
Attached to the headpiece using strings, is a torso with carved breasts and legs.

Chokwe women typically wore a hairstyle entirely coated with red earth and known as tota.

Many masks of this type have been created, of course at various levels of artistic quality, and can be admired in musea and books.
For instance, a few photos are printed in

Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

An exhibition devoted to the sculpture of Angola was held in Lissabon/Lisboa/Lisbon and in Antwerp/Antwerpen, with the following catalogue:

Marie-Louise Bastin
Sculptuur van Angola.
Lissabon : Instituto Portugues de Musea, Antwerpen : Stad Antwerpen, Ethnografisch Museum; Electa, 1995, 191 pp.

On the WWW site of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, USA, http://www.nmafa.si.edu/pubaccess/index.htm in 2004, we can read the following:
"This mask represents a beautiful young woman adorned with tattoos, earrings and an elaborate coiffure. The original Chokwe name (pwo) referred to an adult woman who had given birth. The more recent name, mwana pwo, probably adopted under European influence, emphasizes youthful, feminine beauty.
...
Pwo or mwana pwo is one the most popular dancing masks among the Chokwe. Because they follow matrilineal descent, the Chokwe dance pwo to honor the founding female ancestor of the lineage. A male dancer is dressed like a woman in a costume of braided fiber that completely covers his body and hides his identity. He wears a loincloth, carries a fan and moves in slow, precise steps to emulate a woman. When the mask becomes unusable, it is discarded. When a masquerader dies, the mask is buried with the dancer."

"Chokwe and related peoples:
Bantu-speaking ethnic groups, especially the Chokwe, Lwena, Songo and Ovimbundu, occupying much of Angola and parts of Zaïre and Zambia. These groups are related by origin and history. Their major art forms are wood sculptures, stools and wood and resin masks, though they also produce metalwork, basketwork and ceramics.
According to their oral traditions, these peoples were formed in the beginning of the 17th century as a result of an earlier migration of some Lunda aristocrats and their supporters from the Kalanyi River area of south-east Zaïre. Having conquered the indigenous peoples, the Lunda gradually assimilated with them, adopting many of their customs, while at the same time organizing them into separate tribal areas, each ruled over by a sacred chief. The Lunda conquerors do not seem to have brought with them an important artistic tradition, but the system of chiefs and chiefly courts they established, comprising both lay and religious figures, provided the inspiration and impetus for the development of the pre-existing indigenous sculptural traditions. The courts of the chiefs became the major sources of patronage for the arts.
The Chokwe, Lwena, Songo and Ovimbundu are farmers, hunters and small-scale pastoralists. Their society is matrilineal, with inheritance passing from uncle to uterine nephew. In keeping with the socio-political traditions of the Lunda, the chief’s successor inherits his supernatural power, name and kinship bonds through rites of investiture. The Lunda dynasty of Mwata Yamvo retains pre-eminence by seniority, the chief of the eldest lineage ruling over the Kalanyi River area where the tombs of the ancestors are located.
Everyone among these peoples knows how to work in wood, and many people carve small objects for their own pleasure. There are, however, a number of professional sculptors, trained through a system of apprenticeship, who are held in high regard. They produce a wide variety of such ceremonial and utilitarian objects as statuettes, stools, pipes, snuff-boxes, combs and musical instruments.

Chokwe Masks:
There is a great variety of Chokwe masks. Whether modelled in resin or carved in wood, all Chokwe masks incarnate spirits. They may be divided into three categories.
The first is the Chikungu sacred mask worn by the chief for his investiture and at a ceremony during which he makes propitiatory sacrifices to the dynastic ancestors, seeking their blessings for the well-being of the community. Chikungu’s face is modelled in resin. He wears an impressive winged headdress, similar to that depicted on Chokwe statues.
The second category of masks includes the numerous examples connected exclusively with the Mukanda initiation rite. They are also made of resin. The most important and visually distinct of these masks is Chikunza, the patron of the boys’ camp, who represents a benevolent spirit responsible for fertility and the hunt. Its name refers to the grasshopper, while its tall, conical and ringed helmet refers to the horns of the roan antelope. All these masks draw in their symbolism on aspects of nature. Their role is to govern the different phases of the ritual and to keep the female world at a distance.
The masks in the third category are always used by maskers performing in public in village squares. The two most important, Chihongo and Pwo, were originally made in resin but are now usually carved in wood. Chihongo is the male mask, auspicious for well-being and wealth, and was formerly worn by a chief’s son. It levied a sort of tribute and took part in judicial matters. Pwo, the female mask, evokes the ancestor of the lineage associated with fertility. Representing the feminine ideal, the dancer teaches women graceful manners and refined attitudes and gestures. The sculptor takes great care in making this mask, trying to produce a portrait of a woman whose beauty he admires. He imitates the proportions of her features, her scarification patterns and her hairstyle (e.g. Tervuren, Mus. Royal Afrique Cent.; Washington, DC, N. Mus. Afr. A.). There are no documented examples of Chokwe masks carved before the 20th century."
(source = Marie-Louise Bastin, in the Grove Dictionary of Art)

"The Mwana Pwo mask is said to bestow fertility upon people who witness its dance. Decorative scarification designs appear on the mask's forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin, including the cruciform cingelyengyele and the dotted, curvilinear mitelumuna "wrinkles" design.
...
 The costume is a body sheath of netted fiber, fitted with wooden breasts for the male dancer. Carvers often model their Pwo masks on particular young women's faces. The spiritual representation, however, is an ancestral woman. Pwo perform from village to village. In some areas, the acrobatic dance is performed on a tightrope twenty-five feet high."
(source = WWW site of the Yale University Art Gallery, 2005)

"Chihongo possède un pendant féminin qui symbolise un idéal de beauté. Pwo, «la femme» et mwana pwo, «la jeune femme», restent activement produits et joués dans toute l’aire chokwe. Contrairement à chihongo, pwo peut être fabriqué et exhibé dans un contexte ouvert touchant davantage de monde. Dansé par des hommes, comme le sont les autres masques, le personnage de pwo mime les tâches féminines de même que l’acte sexuel, suggérant ainsi l’importance de la fécondité et de la perpétuation des membres du groupe. (Dapper, 2010)

Pwo mask with long hair

bought in Antwerp, Belgium, on an auction of African art

not available
 

small Pwo mask

bought in Antwerp, Belgium, on an auction of African art

not available








 


Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is located at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, with national boundaries drawn by the French during the colonial era.
It is a dry, landlocked country.
It is independent since 1960.
Burkina Faso is one of the most economically impoverished countries in the world.
In terms of cultural traditions and diversity, it is one of the richest places on earth.
Burkina Faso's population is made up of more than sixty different ethnic groups, including Bwa, Bobo, Kassena, Lela, Lobi, Mossi (Moossi, Mosse), Nuna, Nunama, Tousian/Tousiana/Toussian/Toussiana/Tusia/Tusyan, Turka, and Winiama.
 

The art of Burkina faso has been described clearly and well structured by
Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History, The University of Iowa,
The Art of Burkina Faso,
a text that has been available free of charge through the WWW
http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/Art%20of%20Burkina%20Faso.html
However, only few photos are included.

"The peoples of Burkina Faso create a wide range of objects, diverse in form, function, size and scale, and employing many different materials and technologies. Within their original contexts, art works are valued not only for their aesthetic qualities, but also for their functional efficacy. In Burkina Faso, art is not just something to look at, but also serves life-sustaining purposes, vital to the well-being of individuals and the larger society.
When Mossi cavalrymen established their kingdom over the central plateau region of what is now Burkina Faso centuries ago, they subjugated indigenous populations. Even today, within Mossi society, descendants of the cavalrymen known as Nakomse tend to hold political power while descendants of the original population known as Tengabisi tend to hold religious authority.
Masking traditions are associated with the Tengabisi among the Mossi, and with the fiercely independent, politically decentralized peoples to the south and west who were never conquered by the Mossi, including the Bwa, Bobo, Kassena, Lela, Lobi, Nuna, Nunama, Toussian, Turka, and Winiama.
In Burkina Faso as elsewhere in Africa, with few exceptions, only men wear masks. In rural regions, masquerade performances take place on various occasions including for village purification ceremonies, during initiations, at market-day celebrations, and for funerals and harvest festivals. In recent decades, masks also have begun to perform in urban settings at popular new celebrations as at the biennial national mask festival, for national holidays, and at FESPACO, the Pan-African film festival held every other year in Ouagadougou, the capital city."

 

 

 

 

 

Mossi / Moossi people

The Mossi are the largest tribe living in Burkina Faso, with more than 2 million people.
Burkina Faso is the new name of Upper Volta / Haute Volta since 1983.
They live mainly on the central plateau of Burkina Faso.
They cultivate millet and cotton, and rear cattle in the northern savannah regions.

The art of the Mossi tends toward a simplification that is not found among their neighbors.
The blacksmiths-sculptors formed a separate caste and lived in separate quarters; they married exclusively within the caste.

The Mossi are neighbours of the famous Dogon people.
Their art shows many similarities, such as the creation and use of plank masks, that is face masks with a high vertical superstructure.

A chapter is dedicated to the Mossi in
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

Detailed scholarly information can be found in the text by
Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History, The University of Iowa,
The Art of Burkina Faso,
available on the Internet.

"Mossi: Voltaic-speaking, agricultural people, numbering about 2.3 million, living in central Burkina Faso, West Africa. Art-historically best known for their wooden dolls, they also produce masks and crests, wooden and brass figures and a variety of other arts. Examples of Mossi art are held in numerous public collections.
The diversity of Mossi art styles reflects the diverse origins of the Mossi people. Rather than creating art forms in one major ethnic style, which can be illustrated as ‘archetypal’ or ‘textbook’, the Mossi have created three major styles and several substyles, whose geographical distribution mirrors that of the several groups of farmers who were conquered by invaders in about 1500 and amalgamated into a new group called Mossi.
Mossiland is flat and dry, with clay soils and just enough rainfall in the months from May to September to grow millet, sorghum, maize and groundnuts. Traditionally, the Mossi were organized into exogamous, polygynous, patrilocal clans and were politically centralized, with a number of small kingdoms and a system of chiefs owing allegiance to the Mossi emperor in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Each chief controlled a pyramidal, official bureaucracy responsible for the various districts, the military and the royal tombs.
The Mossi kingdoms were founded at the end of the 15th century when several small bands of mounted warriors, perhaps the younger sons of rulers from northern Ghana, rode north into the upper basin of the Volta rivers seeking new lands to occupy and peoples to subjugate. These horsemen, called nakomse, encountered four major groups of farmers: in the south-west they fought and gradually conquered peoples they called ‘Gurunsi’, including the Nuna, Winiama and Lela. In the north, they conquered and either assimilated or drove off the Dogon and the Kurumba. In the east, they conquered large numbers of Gurmantche.
In each area the invaders imposed their language on the defeated groups, but left most of the existing social structure intact. Where there was any pre-existing political authority, the local leader was incorporated in the new Mossi society as the ‘earth priest’, a ritual specialist who, by right of first occupation of the land, held the right to distribute farming land to local families. The original inhabitants retained the power to manipulate the forces of nature, especially lightning and tornadoes, so as to strike their enemies; the descendants of the invaders still fear the magical powers of their subjects. Among the most important social institutions the invaders found in place was the use of masks to represent spirits. The descendants of the conquered peoples, who are now called nyonyose, or ‘the ancient ones’, continue to carve masks that are stylistic survivals of the masks carved before the conquest in 1500.
Masks and masquerades:
The best known Mossi mask style is found in the north-western Mossi kingdom called Yatenga, an area once occupied by the Dogon. Here, the nyonyose who remained behind when the majority of Dogon fled to the Bandiagara cliffs were amalgamated into Mossi society. Their descendants carve masks that are vertically orientated, with a tall, slender plank that rises above the face of the mask and is decorated with red, white and black geometric patterns. The face of the Mossi mask is a concave oval, bisected vertically with a dentate ridge, the face painted white. Dogon masks are concave and rectangular, with a similar vertical ridge. Certain Dogon masks are surmounted by a vertical plank that is similar to the plank on Mossi masks from Yatenga. In addition, there are types, such as the mask surmounted by a female figure, that occur among both groups and are stylistically related.
In other northern areas to the east of Yatenga, groups of Kurumba were conquered and assimilated into Mossi society. The masks of their nyonyose descendants include the same oval, convex face and complex plank that appear on southern Kurumba masks. Geometric patterns are painted roughly, just as they are among the Kurumba who live to the north.
In the south-western Mossi area, in the kingdom of Ouagadougou, ruled by the Mossi emperor from the capital city, the nyonyose are descended from ancient Nuna, Winiama and Lela farmers. These Mossi carve red, white and black animal masks that lack the thin, vertical plank of the northern Mossi styles. These masks appear to represent such animals as the antelope, bush-pig, hawk, hornbill, crocodile and hyena, as well as human characters such as the Fulani woman or albino, or spirits that take no recognizable animal or human forms but which combine the features of many creatures. These masks are related stylistically to the animal and human masks of the contemporary Nuna and Lela who now live to the east of the Mossi. There are certain style traits that serve to distinguish the masks of the south-western Mossi from those of their neighbours. The Nuna and Winiama use patterns of concentric red, white and black circles that do not appear on Mossi masks.
Finally, in the far eastern Mossi area of the kingdom of Boulsa, the Mossi carve masks that consist of a half-cylinder of wood worn vertically, with a thick costume of red or black fibre. These are exceptions to the rule that Mossi masks are survivals of the carving styles of the ancient inhabitants, for in this area the ancient inhabitants never used masks, and the style has entered Mossi country from the south.
The Mossi use masks at burials, funerals and initiations, and at annual year-end ancestral sacrifices. They represent spirits from the wild bush areas surrounding the village, which may appear to humans as animals. Men and women encounter these spirits while hunting or gathering firewood, and spirits that play an important role in the history of the lineage or clan are honoured by being represented by masks. Clan members will not kill or eat the flesh of the animal spirit, for when such an animal dies, a member of the clan will also die.
When masks are not being worn in performances they are placed on ancestral shrines in the kimse roogo, or ancestral spirit house of the family that owns them. Sacrifices may be made on the mask to obtain the blessings of the spirit that the mask represents. Men and women, adults and children alike have access to the masks for sacrifice, although all sacrifices are administered by a man. The spirits protect the family from disease, accident and natural disaster, its crops from insects and drought, its women from infertility, and generally ensure success in life.
Mossi masks appear most frequently at funerals, when masks that belong to the clan of the deceased appear to honour the dead and to participate in the blood sacrifices that free the spirit of the dead to leave the world of the living and travel to the world of the ancestral spirits."
(source = Christopher D. Roy in the Grove Dictionary of Art)

 

 

 

 

wooden, facial portion of a wan-zega mask of the Mossi people
living in the Boulsa Region of Burkina Faso

bought on an auction of primitive, tribal art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available

From the text quoted below and from photos of pieces in museums, we learn

Most of the similar masks published have lost the sack of traditional medicine that is still a part of this particular mask.

A long text with links to some photos entitled
The art of Burkina Faso
is offered through the WWW
by Christopher D. Roy
Professor of Art History, The University of Iowa
http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/Art%20of%20Burkina%20Faso.html

The following are quotes from Roy:

C. The Eastern (Boulsa) Style:

The eastern Mossi near Boulsa use masks which are stylistically very distinct from other Mossi masks . The semi-cylindrical facial portion is bisected by a ridge or nose. Parallel slits on each side of the nose permit the performer to see. The mask is painted white with kaolin clay, and has small red surrounds at the eyes. The performer wears a complex, carefully tailored fiber costume. The performer holds a split reed between his teeth and alternately sucks and blows air through it to produce a high or low toned whistling sound. The mask speaks to its assistants, but in a language that only the initiated can understand.

Within the Boulsa style area, three types of masks are used, which differ in both the form of the wooden mask and the construction of the fiber costumes. All three mask types are referred to collectively as gur-wando.
The most common masks are the tall masks, worn by adult men, with red fiber costumes called wan-zega ("red mask"). The visible portion of the mask is about 35 cm. long and 20 cm. wide. It is painted white with red surrounds at the eyes. A tall (ca. 100 cm.), thin pole extends from the top of the mask. The pole is covered with a thick layer of long red fibers, and from it hangs a large, heavy sack of traditional medicine which swings freely when the mask dances. The body of the performer is covered with a close-fitting red costume. Wan-zega carry a long knife and a club in the left hand. However, I never saw a mask actually use either of these weapons. Both of these masks carry long, flexible whips made from the branch of a neem tree. The masks frequently strike out at spectators with these whips (sabaga).

Boulsa-style masks are used by the Nyonyosé in the northeastern corner of Mossi country, in an area that corresponds closely to the traditional Mossi state of Boulsa, except in the southwest, where it extends into the traditional state of Boussouma, around the towns of Boussouma and Korsimoro. The southern limit seems to be the swampy, low area near Nyégha, 20 km. south of Boulsa. South of this area, in the kingdoms of Koupéla and Tenkodogo, the Mossi (i.e. the Nyonyosé) do not use masks. To the north is the Sahel, inhabited by the Fulani, and to the east are the Gurmantché, who do not use masks of wood. A few masks of this style are sometimes seen in the area south of Ouagadougou, near Manga and Saponé. Here, however, they are scattered, less numerous than animal masks. The fact that there are no apparent connections between these areas leaves unresolved the question of the origins of the style.

Function of Mossi Masks:
Masks play a fundamental role because they are the reincarnation of the animal totem, the spirits of the important dead elders, and of the collective spirits of the ancestors of the clan.
In the south west (Ouagadougou style) and in the north (styles of Yatenga, Risiam and Kaya), each male head of a Tengabisi lineage may own a mask, in the form of the clan's totemic animal, on which he and his family may make sacrifices to the spirits of the ancestors. These personal or lineage masks are kept in the spirit house of the lineage or in the owner's own house. The oldest mask is referred to as the wan-kasenga, or "big mask", the chief mask at all funerals and year-end sacrifices. The remaining masks of the clan, almost identical in form to the senior mask, are referred to collectively as wan-liuli, or "bird masks". This does not mean that these masks represent birds in form, but refers to their function at funerals and other mask appearances as agents for crowd control. In the east (Boulsa) this function is performed by the large, red wan-zega. The major masks of each clan appear much less frequently than do the other, less important masks. Wan-kasenga rarely travel to other villages to appear at the funerals of clan members who have moved away from the primary clan residence.
Masks appear at burials, and at funerals of clan elders. They protect and aid the members of the clan, and they protect the harvest of wild-growing fruits. Finally, they are portable altars on which the blood of animals may be offered as sacrifices to the ancestors of the clan.

Because masks are owned by lineages and clans, all of the members of these clans have access to the masks for purposes of sacrifice to the ancestors during funeral rites. Young and old, male and female alike participate in mask appearances. It is quite normal to see women dance alongside and embrace the masks. In contrast to the other areas, in the Boulsa region women and children are excluded from mask performances, and young boys who dare to attempt to watch are chased and whipped by the masks.  

Protection of the Clan:
Totemic masks also serve as direct lines of communication to the ancestors of the clan to which they belong. The mask, stripped of its costume, which is stored separately, becomes the personal ancestral altar of the owner and his lineage. Sacrifices are made directly on the mask, seeking the aid of the lineage ancestors in providing many healthy children, good wives, abundant rainfall, good crops, and success in any endeavor to be undertaken by the supplicant.

Some masks, in some areas, perform for secular celebrations. For example, in the Boulsa region, the tall, red guard masks occasionally appear at secular festivals, such as the National Independence Day or at rituals in honor of the political chief, but on these occasions the more important masks remain behind in the clan spirit house.
It is important to understand that secret mask societies do not exist in Burkina Faso. Some authors have described secret societies among the Mossi, based on Tauxier's or Lucien Marc's descriptions of "mysterious brotherhoods", and "secret languages". Mask performers are always men who have been initiated into the knowledge of masks' meanings and origins, and in the Boulsa area, women are excluded from performances. But elsewhere family members have access to masks by right of birth into certain families. There is nothing to imply a relationship between masks and secret societies, such as a "wango society". In fact, all rites are open to members of the families who own the masks."
end of quotation

 Photo by Christopher D. Roy:

"This type belongs to the group of 'Gur-Wando' masks, they are used for funeral ceremonies of earth-priests and are danced by adult men; they do represent an aggressive male character and have a function as guardian and police in contrast to the 'Wan-Sablaga' masks who represent a more reserved female type."
(source = Tribal Art Auctioneers Zemanek-Münster, 2005)

 







Mask, duck / canard

bought from a collection of African art in Brussels, who received this mask from a student from Burkina Faso








 

Totem mask

not available

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerpen, Belgium







 



Toussian / Tousian / Toussiana / Tusia / Tusian / Tussian / Tusya / Tusyan tribe

Loniake / Loniaken / Ionake / Sira kono / Mpie mask
 

Bought on an auction of tribal art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available

The Toussian are a small group living in the Southwestern part of Burkina Faso (formerly called Haute-Volta).
They form a smaller people than their neighbours, the more famous Senoufo/Senufo.

This type of mask was used in initiation ceremonies.
The masks were made by blacksmiths.
They were made of one, more or less square piece of hardwood, very two-dimensional, named Loniake. Two diagonals are indicated with incrusted red (abrus?) seeds.
On top comes the head of a big bird (the Calao) or horns, that symbolize the spirit of the clan / totem of the initiated boy.

A mask of this type is shown and described on pp. 76-77 in
Werner Schmalenbach (Editor)
African Art from the Barbier-Mueller Collection, Geneva.
Munich : Prestel, 1988.

A mask of this type is shown on p. 72 in
Douglas Newton,
Sculpture: chefs-d'oeuvre de Musee Barbier-Mueller.
Geneva : Musee Barbier-Mueller, 1995, ISBN 2-7433-0076-0.
There is explained that the masks are locally named Sira kono or Mpie. When they were not worn, the masks were sometimes suspended outside of the house, so that everyone can admire them.

A photo of the masks in the field plus the mask of the Musee Barbier-Mueller are also shown on p. 93 in
B. Geoffroy-Schneiter
Primal Arts: Africa, Oceania and the Southeast Asian Islands.
New York : Thames & Hudson, 2000; original edition Assouline, 1999.

Detailed scholarly information can be found in the chapter on the Tusya in the following book
Roy, Christopher
Traduction et adaptation en Français F. Chaffin
Art of the Upper Volta rivers
Paris
Meudon
1987
384 pp.
325 ills & 16 col. plts.
Cloth
, d/j.
Text in English and French

P. 363 shows a similar mask.

Similar texts are available as 
The Art of Burkina Faso, by Christopher D. Roy, Professor of Art History, The University of Iowa, available on the Internet and cited in 2003 in the following:

The Tusyâ People:

The Tusyâ are a small group of about 22,000 that lives in the extreme southwestern area of Burkina Faso between Orodara and Banfora. They are surrounded by the Sembla and Bobo who live to the northeast, the Karaboro and Tyefo (Senufo peoples) to the southeast, the Turka and Syemu to the west, and the Senufo to the north. The Syemu are closely related to the Tusyâ, and it is very difficult to distinguish between them.

Their major town is Toussiana on the road from Bobo-Dioulasso to Banfora. Other large villages are Kurignon, Tapoko, and Tagalédougou. About half of the population of the town of Orodara, in Syemu country, is Tusyâ.

Like most of the peoples in Burkina Faso, the Tusyâ are heterogeneous, with numerous variations in cultural characteristics despite their small population. The northern Tusyâ are the oldest inhabitants of the area, and call themselves Tento. The southern Tusyâ, near the large town of Toussiana, call themselves Win. However, the Jula name Tusyâ (people of Toussiana) is used widely. To avoid confusion between Win and Winiama, I will use the more widely-published Tusyâ.

The Tusyâ are closely related to the Senufo, and they speak winwen, a Voltaic language very similar to their Voltaic neighbors. Their villages, kinship patterns, political systems and religious beliefs are similar to those of the Senufo-related peoples who are their neighbors to the west.

The Tusyâ produce masks and crests or helmets of wood that are well represented in public and private collections. They also cast small brass figures that are very similar to Senufo brasses.

 

Masks:

Tusyâ masks, called loniakê, are very two-dimensional, rectangular plaques of wood with a bird head projecting from the center of the upper rim, and a broad triangle projecting downward from the lower rim. Small, round eye holes are carved close together high on the face and are surrounded by wax into which red seeds are set. A similar cross of seeds divides the face diagonally into quarters. The sides and lower edge are pierced with holes for attaching a fiber fringe. Some examples bear mirrors on the face that form large eyes. The mask is surmounted by an animal head or horns, which symbolize the totem of the clan.

 

Function:

Masks are worn during initiations.

 

Initiation:

The initiations were held only once a generation, and contact with European culture has made them even more infrequent. The last performance in which masks were used took place in April, 1933 "just before the tracks of the Abidjan-Bobo-Dioulaso railway reached Bobo" (elder informants in Toussiana and Jean Hébert, Du marriage toussian. Notes et documents de l'I.F.A.N. 23, nos. 3-4. pp. 697-731, 1961: 717). The masks are carved by a blacksmith during the initiation period, and each initiate is then allowed to keep his personal mask.

Initiation has been held in two major steps: every young man and woman is initiated at the lowest level in ceremonies held every two years. Those who are not initiated may not marry. During the initiation each boy receives an initiatory name that is never used in the village and is kept secret from women and children. In order of importance these names include the heron (most important), song bird, hare, stork, partridge, kingfisher, panther, cat, monkey, bush pig, bush buffalo, and elephant (the last and most junior level). The name the young man receives may be represented by the crest that surmounts his mask. Young women are not given masks. The young men are instructed in their roles as adults in village society, and are given religious training.

The most senior initiation was held every forty years, and is marked by dances in the bush in which each initiate wears a mask that represents his family's protective animal spirit, indicated by the crest that projects from the top of the mask. The initiates go through the training and perform in the final dances naked. No costume except the short fringe on the mask is worn during the performance.

end of quotation

 

Loniake masks have probably inspired the famous surrealist artist Max Ernst (1891-1976) in the creation of for instance his sculpture The King playing with the Queen.

The mask shown here corresponds better to the description of Loniake masks by Prof. Roy than the masks made far away from the original region for the tourist market.

A similar mask is part of the collection http://www.afrikamuseum.nl/museum/index.htm [accessed 2006]:








 


Ivory Coast / Côte d'Ivoire / Elfenbeinküste in West Africa

Baule/Baoule (or Yaure/Yohoure/Yaore or Guro) people

The Baule/Baoule and their art are described for instance in a chapter in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

"The Baule people, known as one of the largest ethnic group in the country, have played a central role in twentieth-century Ivorian history. They waged the longest war of resistance to French colonization of any West African people, and maintained their traditional objects and beliefs longer than many groups in such constant contact with European administrators, traders, and missionaries. According to a legend, during the eighteenth century, the queen, Abla Poku, had to lead her people west to the shores of the Comoe, the land of Senufo. In order to cross the river, she sacrificed her own son. This sacrifice was the origin of the name Baule, for baouli means “the child has died.” Now about one million Baule occupy a part of the eastern Côte d'Ivoire between the Komoé and Bandama rivers that is both forest and savanna land. Baule society was characterized by extreme individualism, great tolerance, a deep aversion toward rigid political structures, and a lack of age classes, initiation, circumcision, priests, secret societies, or associations with hierarchical levels. Each village was independent from the others and made its own decisions under the presiding presence of a council of elders. Everyone participated in discussions, including slaves. It was an egalitarian society. The Baule compact villages are divided into wards, or quarters, and subdivided into family compounds of rectangular dwellings arranged around a courtyard; the compounds are usually aligned on either side of the main village street. The Baule are agriculturists; yams are the staple, supplemented by fish and game; coffee and cocoa are major cash crops. The importance of the yam is demonstrated in an annual harvest festival in which the first yam is symbolically offered to the ancestors, whose worship is a prominent aspect of Baule religion. The foundation of Baule social and political institutions is the matrilineal lineage; each lineage has ceremonial stools that embody ancestral spirits. Paternal descent is recognized, however, and certain spiritual and personal qualities are believed to be inherited through it. The Baule believe in an intangible and inaccessible creator god, Nyamien. Asie, the god of the earth, controls humans and animals. The spirits, or amuen, are enrowed with supernatural powers. Religion is founded upon the idea of death and the immortality of the soul. Ancestors are the object of worship but are not depicted.
Baule art is sophisticated and stylistically diverse. Non inherited, the sculptor’s profession is the result of a personal choice. The Baule have types of sculpture that none of the other Akan peoples possess. Wooden sculptures and masks allow a closer contact with the supernatural world. Baule statues are usually standing on a base with legs slightly bent, with their hands resting on their abdomen in a gesture of peace, and their elongated necks supporting a face with typically raised scarification and bulging eyes. The coiffure is always very detailed and is usually divided into plaits. Baule figures answer to two types of devotion: one depicts the “spiritual” spouse who, in order to be appeased, requires the creation of a shrine in the personal hut of the individual. A man will own his spouse, the blolo bian, and a woman her spouse, the blolo bla, which they carry around everywhere they go.
...
Masks correspond to three types of dances: the gba gba, the bonu amuen, and the goli.
They never represent the ancestors and are always worn by men.
The gba gba is used at the funerals of women during the harvest season. It celebrates beauty and age, hence its refined features. The double mask represents the marriage of the sun and the moon or twins, whose birth is always a good sign.
The bonu amuen protects the village from external threats; it obliges the woman to a certain discipline; and it appears at the commemorations of death of notables. When they intervene in the life of the community, they take the shape of a wooden helmet that represents a buffalo or antelope and which is worn with a raffia costume and metal ankle bracelets; the muzzle has teeth which incarnate the fierce animal that is to defend the group.
The very characteristic, round-shaped “lunar” goli is surmounted by two horns. It was borrowed from the Wan for a celebration adopted by the Baule after 1900. Celebrating peace and joy, they would sing, dance, and drink palm wine. In the procession, the goli preceded the four groups of dancers, representing young adolescents. The goli would be used on the occasion of the new harvest, the visit of dignitaries, or at the funerals of notables. "
(source = zyama.com)

"The Baule represent one of the most important tribes of the Ivory Coast. Their name is testimony to their birth - according to legend, Queen Aba Pokou led her people on an exodus towards the gold-mining areas during the 18th century and had to cross a river where she was obliged to sacriflce her son to the river god, thus giving her people the name Bauh, 'the son is dead'. During the 19th century, the queendom disintegrated due to internal conflicts and by the beginning of the 20th century, when the French colonials arrived, they found only a network of villages, headed by councils of venerated men.
Baule artists produced numerous works of art and Baule carvers are still very active today. With their great sense of stylization and attention to detail, they have produced some of the most elegant objects of all African art.
The Baule people use three major type of masks: the first is a helmet mask in the shape of a buffalo head, Bonu Amwin; the second represents a human face with rounded, fairly realistic features; and the third type includes masks related to the Goli festival.
The Bonu Amwin helmet mask represents a buffalo's head with a pair of crescent-like flat horns, a T-shaped nose and a large rectangular mouth with exposed teeth - its stylized features inspired Picasso's costume designs. It is sometimes painted with black, white and red pigments. The mask was originally worn only by warring men. Nowadays, it is mostly used to protect villages. The second type of mask is characterized by a rounded face with realistic features, pointed chin, T-shaped nose, semi-circular eyes, raised scarification - typical of the Baule tribe - and an elaborate coiffure. They do not appear to have any sacred function and are worn only during festivities related to visits by important dignitaries. This type of mask sometimes has two faces, side by side, symbolizing twins, which for Africans is a good omen. The Goh festivities are held to celebrate new crops, the visits of dignitaries or periods of mourning. Three types of masks are used during these festivals: the first is of discoid shape and represents a highly stylized face beneath a pair of horns; the second is a helmet mask representing a buffalo head beneath antelope horns; and the third is used for closing the festivities, and has an elongated human face appearing under a pair of backward-swept horns."
(source = Ethnographica WWW site, 2002)

 

Kplekple mask used at the Goli ceremonial dance of the


Bought on auction from a dealer in Germany.

Available

The goli kplekple mask is one of several that appear in the Goli spirit dance. It represents a minor spirit associated with the junior rank of male dancers who perform before the more important masks appear. In keeping with its low status, this mask is made in a simple disk-shaped design and lacks the more complex form and ornamentation that the Baule admire in their important masks. Considered a mischievous mask, the youthful dancer playfully chases young women around the village, goaded by their songs.





 

face mask with figure on top

not available

bought in Dakar, Senegal, from a dealer in old African art sculptures









face mask, similar to elephant masks

not available

bought in Dakar, Senegal, from a dealer in old African art sculptures, as a mask from the Baule people

 










female face mask

Bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium.

Not available.

With traces of white pigments.

The Baule/Baoule, Yaure/Yohoure/Yaore, and the Guro are neighbouring tribes/people.

Typical for Baule/Baoule women and female masks are

However, the nose and lips are closer to the Guro style.

The elongated, serious, serene face makes us think of the faces drawn and painted by the 20th century artist Modigliani.










 

face mask in a mixture of styles of the neighbouring tribes Guro and Baule/Baoule

bought on an auction in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

Typical for the Guro are the small mouth with sharpened teeth, the scarifications on the forehead and the hairstyle in five parts.
Typical for the Baule/Baoule are the round, bulging eyes and the long straight nose.
This mask is similar to some types of masks with a human face with a long nose and horns curved backwards, all produced in Ivory Coast, described in publications as follows:

The so-called konon-buene mask danced early in the 20th century as one of a pair of dissimilar masks as part of a series of masks in a so-called Goli performance/ceremony in a Guro village, as described in the book
Eberhard Fischer and Lorenz Homberger,
Die Kunst der Guro Elfenbeinküste, exhibition catalogue,
Zurich Museum Rietberg, 1985, pp. 197-200.
This book contains a photo of a similar mask on p. 200, illustration 102.

Lo or Je masks of the Yaure people.
"They are supposed to influence supernatural powers who may cause trouble to humans but who may also secure their welfare..."
on p. 112-113 with a photo
in
Schaedler, Karl-Ferdinand
KUNST DER ELFENBEINKUSTE - ART OF IVORY COAST
Munchen
Panterra
2001
122 pp.
30 x 21 cm
numerous colour and b/w illustrations
Softcover
Eine Ausstellung des Kunstvereins Erlangen e. V. - Palais Stutterheim

The Kpwan kple (or Kpan kple) mask of the Baule people. This forms part of the Goli masquerade.
"This type of mask is not present in all the villages. Even when it is, it is not always used. It is the youngest of the family and has a rather ambiguous position on account of its name (kpwan), which suggests a female and animal origin, since this human face has two horns curving backwards that look like those of a billy-goat. The faces are red or black, depending on their gender. Combining an anthromorphic figure with horns of a goat or billy-goat suggests that this effigy, a double from the formal and functional point of view, acts as a link between the inseparable human and animal spheres. It represents a transition between the untamed world embodied by the goli glin and the human world represented by the figure which is to follow, the kpwan. As in the kplekple, the dancers are boys aged between seventeen and twenty, who are required to leap about rather more than in the glin. On their back they wear a goatskin..."
cfr. p. 49 etc. of
Alain-Michel Boyer
BAULE
Series: Visions of Africa
ITALY
Publisher: FIVE CONTINENTS EDITIONS
2007
Pages: 160
Paperback
ISBN 10: 8874393865 ISBN 13: 9788874393862
Illustrations: 64 col., 15 b.&w


Photos of similar masks:



from the Musee Barbier-Mueller in Geneve, published in
Alain-Michel Boyer
BAULE
Series: Visions of Africa
ITALY
Publisher: FIVE CONTINENTS EDITIONS
Pages: 160
Paperback
ISBN 10: 8874393865 ISBN 13: 9788874393862
Illustrations: 64 col., 15 b.&w


 

 







auction Zemanek in Germany 2013-09, 3000-6000 euro, unsold








Côte d'Ivoire, Baule
wood, the facial plane dyed in black, red and white paint (darkened), delicate carved regular facial features, framed by zigzag-beard and chin beard, slightly dam., paint rubbed off, fine fissure on the forehead, crack backside at the lower rim, minor missing part (top of the head), metal base; belonging to the family of the "kple-kple" masks which perform in honour of the buffalo god "goli". Four pairs of masks appear, two by two, in a fixed order: first a pair of disc-faced masks (called "kple kple"), next a pair of animal helmet masks "goli glen", third a pair of horned face masks "kpan pre", and finally two human-faced masks with crested hairdos "kpan". Within each pair, the masks and costumes are nearly identical, but the masks of the "kple kple" and "kpan pre" pairs are distinguished by color: the male mask is painted red, the female black.

H: 41 cm H: 16.1 inch

Provenance Maria Wyss, Basel, Switzerland

Literature Vogel, Susan Mullin, Baule - African Art - Western Eyes, New York 1997, p. 175

Sold for: 4000 €








172 Mask with horns "kpan pre" Mask with horns "kpan pre", Côte d'Ivoire, Yaure

wood, brown patina, remains of pigments, the actual mask face superimposed to an oval fond, scarifications on cheeks and temples, min. dam., missing parts through insect caused damage, fine cracks, slight traces of abrasion; belonging to the family of the "kple-kple" masks which perform to honour the buffalo god "goli". Four pairs of masks appear, two by two, in a fixed order: first a pair of disc-faced masks (usually called "kple kple"), next a pair of animal helmet masks "goli glen", third a pair of horned face masks "kpan pre", and finally two human-faced masks with crested hairdos "kpan". Within each pair, the masks and costumes are nearly identical, but the masks of the "kple kple" and "kpan pre" pairs are distinguished by color: the male mask is painted red, the female black.

H: 37 cm H: 14.6 inch

Provenance French Private Collection

Price: 8000 - 15000 €
unsold
Zemanek 2013-09 auction






Vente AuctionArt - Rémy Le Fur & Associés

Vente aux enchères du Lundi 9 décembre 2013

Art Africain

Sculptures

Lot 17 : MASQUE FACIAL Kple-Kplehttp://www.auction.fr/img/lot_details/zoom.png

Estimation : 4 000 / 6 000 €

MASQUE FACIAL Kple-Kple.
Bois, patine naturelle brun clair, argile.
COTE D'IVOIRE, Baoulé, Goli.
Haut. 29 cm








Koulango/Kulango or Ligbi or Jimini / Djimini peopl

face mask

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

sold, not in the collection anymore

Probably, this type of mask depicts a hornbill, a sacred bird associated with growth and fertility in many communities, represents a deceased soul, and was worn by the men of the secret society kiemvé during funerary rituals of its members.

Not many similar masks have been published. This particular mask is probably not old.








 

We / Wee / Guere / Gere / N'gere / Ngere / Kono or Bete people

animal face mask

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

The We / Wee / Guere / Gere / N'gere / Ngere people live south and south-East of the more famous Dan people in Cote d'Ivoire / Ivory Coast / Elfenbeinkuste. They share many aspects of culture with the neighbouring Dan. They created masks that were used during festivities, funerals, rituals, wars, and that look rather scary and monstrous.

"Modern ethnology puts the Wobe and Guere together under the name We, despite the fact that the people themselves use the old names. The We population is estimated at 100,000. Rice, yams, taro, manioc, maize, and bananas are the primary crops grown. Farming and hunting have been largely replaced by laboring in the diamond camps or working at the rubber plantations. Confederations govern both ethnic groups -- the largest is the warrior confederation which is led by a military chief, who also acts as a civil authority. The family units also play an important role in We social life.
The art of Guere and Wobe people is stylistically connected and both groups are often collectively referred to as We, meaning "men who easily forgive." Like the Dan, the We use a wide variety of masquerades, which hold important regulatory position within their small, egalitarian communities. Masks are owned by families and used by individual lineage members in contexts of social control, boy’s circumcision camps, and entertainment. Most We masks were created to frighten with the gaping jaws and tubular eyes. The style of these forest living people differ from the sophisticated, gentle and often refined art of the neighboring savanna-dwellers. We people produce a variety of masks often characterized by enlarged triangular nose, an open mouth and tubular eyes. We statues are rare."
(source = WWW site Rand African Art, 2004)

A short text about this culture has been published in
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

Photos of similar We masks in action are shown in

Homberger, Lorenz, editor
Masken der We und Dan - Elfenbeinkuste
Zurich : Museum Rietberg, 1997, 79 pp.

"Modern ethnology puts the Wobe and Guere together under the name We, despite the fact that the people themselves use the old names. The We population is estimated at 100,000. Rice, yams, taro, manioc, maize, and bananas are the primary crops grown. Farming and hunting have been largely replaced by laboring in the diamond camps or working at the rubber plantations. Confederations govern both ethnic groups -- the largest is the warrior confederation which is led by a military chief, who also acts as a civil authority. The family units also play an important role in We social life.
The art of Guere and Wobe people is stylistically connected and both groups are often collectively referred to as We, meaning "men who easily forgive." Like the Dan, the We use a wide variety of masquerades, which hold important regulatory position within their small, egalitarian communities. Masks are owned by families and used by individual lineage members in contexts of social control, boy’s circumcision camps, and entertainment. Most We masks were created to frighten with the gaping jaws and tubular eyes. The style of these forest living people differ from the sophisticated, gentle and often refined art of the neighboring savanna-dwellers. We people produce a variety of masks often characterized by enlarged triangular nose, an open mouth and tubular eyes. We statues are rare."
(source = WWW site Rand African Art, 2004)

Typical for these masks are














 


Ivory Coast / Côte d'Ivoire / Elfenbeinküste, Burkina Faso, and Mali (in West Africa)

Senufo / Senoufo people

face mask with feathers

not available

bought in Dakar, Senegal, as a mask from the Senufo

This type of mask is not well documented in publications.










 


Liberia and Ivory Coast (in West Africa)

Dan people

face mask with circular eyes

 

not in the collection anymore, sold

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

"The Dan live in Liberia and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). While they lacked a cohesive central government, identity as a Dan was fostered by a shared language and intermarriage within the language group. Today men make their living at wage work in the diamond camps or working at the rubber plantations instead of the more traditional farming and hunting. What has remained is the demonstration of success through the competition by young men to see who can spend more lavishly at community feasts. The Dan place a high value on the individual’s ability to succeed and consider such demonstrations of wealth as proof of achievements." 
(source = http://www.umfa.utah.edu/ )

The Dan people live in the region of the border between the western Ivory Coast / Cote d'Ivoire / Elfenbeinküste and Liberia.

The Dan create idealized representations of the human face.
The mask is never meant to portray a specific individual.
Therefore some Dan masks are very refined and also admired by many non-African people.
Some Dan masks remain in one family for generations.

The Dan consider mask-making an important art form and an integral part of their life.
Masking ceremonies have three different functions:

The dancer transforms into the spirit he represents and enables communication between the spirit world and the material world to take place.

Masks made by the Dan are generally divided into two categories, feminine and masculine.
Feminine masks have slit eyes and painted faces (Gle Mu, Deangle); during ceremonies, the mask dancer act gracefully and harmlessly.
Masculine masks have large round eyes and often a beard (Gle Gon).

Typical for Dan masks are their

Dan masks with circular eyes are presented on p. 95 of Roy Sieber and Roslyn Adele Walker
African Art in the Cycle of Life. exh. cat.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press
1987 and reprinted afterwards
ISBN 0874748216
155 pp.

The Dan and their art are described in a chapter of the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civilizations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

"The Dan people classify surroundings into two realms - the village with all inhabitants (human realm), and the forest (bon) (spirit realm) where the spirits reign, and wild animals roam freely. The forest is regarded as sacred, and crossing the boundary between the human realm, and the spirit realm, may only be done by saying a prayer and wearing materials from both worlds. This creates a link between the two realms.
Dan masks are normally made of hard wood and cloth, with cowry shell decor. Masks is an integral part of social life, ceremonies and rituals.
Masks are grouped into categories: the feminine mask, Gle Mu, and the masculine mask, Gle Gon. The feminine masks are characterized by an oval, pointed face, and feature slit-like eyes, a high forehead, slender nose, and a smooth patina. They are known for their calm, abstract beauty, and during ceremonies, the mask dancer act gracefully and harmlessly. The feminine mask's facial features includes a smooth patina, and strong aesthetic ideals of the Dan people.
Masculine mask type, the Kagle, or "hooked stick", main function - was to prepare men spiritually for war. As of late, the mask is used to enable men to give vent to anger and frustration they might have.
The Dan people believe a mask dancer is transformed into a spirit. The mask dancer goes into a trance during rituals and bring forth messages of wisdom from his forebears . The message is inaudible and in uncontrollable utters. A wise man that accompany the dancer during the ritual translates the messages.
Masks are made and worn exclusively, by male dancers. Dan masks are only carved by initiated members of the male Poro society. Young boys enter training at a young age and remain at the training camp for several years, until they are initiated as adults into society.
These initiated males are visited in their dreams by a spirit who wants to be given a bodily form. Following the dream, the adult male has to give life to the spirit, in the form of a mask.
Before the actual carving process the adult male cleanse himself, then sets off to the forest. He selects an appropriate tree and say a pray to the spirit of the tree, before choosing a single piece of wood, big enough for his carving. When he reaches his village, he commence with the carving. On completion of the mask, he carefully plans the song, music and dance, that is to accompany the masking ceremony.
The mask will remain in the family and community for years, and will eventually be passed down through the generations."
(cited from the WWW site created by Rebirth African art and craft, Cape Town, South Africa)

"The Dan live in Liberia and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire). While they lacked a cohesive central government, identity as a Dan was fostered by a shared language and intermarriage within the language group. Today men make their living at wage work in the diamond camps or working at the rubber plantations instead of the more traditional farming and hunting. What has remained is the demonstration of success through the competition by young men to see who can spend more lavishly at community feasts. The Dan place a high value on the individual’s ability to succeed and consider such demonstrations of wealth as proof of achievements.
The Dan’s worldview believes in a distinction between bush and village. This dualism of bush and village is pervasive in Africa, although the forms by which it is expressed vary from place to place. The underlying notion is that the world consists of two complementary spheres: one a wild, chaotic, uncontrolled, exuberant region (or nature); the other an ordered, controlled, measured, predictable domain (or culture), the human world of the village.
The Poro society, which is found in some form throughout the western coast of Africa, is the most important mask-using group. In carving Poro masks the sculptor seeks to create a sense of rhythm by contrasting convex and concave surfaces, a contrast that can be emphasized by color variations and the differing textures of added elements -- bells, medicine bags, animal horns, etc.
Only initiates of the Poro society are permitted to wear such masks. The masks function to bring to the initiates a sense of their second birth as members of the Poro society. Masks are present at public functions and life crisis ceremonies. The nyon néa wears a conical-shaped hat on top of her smooth oval face. The features of the néa are expressive of the ideals of beauty and serenity. The high, bulging forehead, prominent cheekbones and symmetrical mouth are all features seen in the young women of the area. A male counterpart, the nyon hiné, accompanies the female nyon néa. The nyon hiné has a black face that is half human and half animal and wears a cylindrical headdress adorned with cowrie shells. An interpreter and orchestra accompany the masks. Although deconsecrated today and viewed by all villagers, these masks still evoke the beginning and end of a cycle.
The festival in which these masks are used takes place right after the rice harvest. The presence of the hiné and néa masks during the relative prosperity after the harvest symbolizes the success of the people in dealing with the negative effects of uncontrolled nature."
(source = Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, http://www.umfa.utah.edu/, 2005)
 

In view of the typical, large round eyes, the mask shown is probably a Gunye ge / Gunyega / Zakpai / Zakpei runner's/racing mask (masque de course) of the Dan, or at least inspired by that type of mask.








face mask with slit eyes

not available

bought on an auction of antiques in Antwerpen/Antwerp, Belgium










 


Gabon

Fang/Fan (or Punu or Kwele or Ysea) peoples/tribes
from southwestern Cameroon and northern Gabon/Gabun

N'gotang/N'gontang/ngontang/ngontanga helmet dance mask

bought in Antwerp, Belgium

not in the collection anymore, gone, sold

This mask was repaired as can be seen on the photos, probably in Africa.
It does not look new, but of course it is hard to estimate it's age. It was imported from Cameroon to Belgium.

Ngong means young girl.
The 4 white faces around the mask represent probably a young beautiful white woman and/or spiritual beings.
The first masks of this kind were seen early in 1920's.
Not much is written about their usage.
A short description is given in
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa, Thames & Hudson, 1998; ISBN: 0500018707.
Helmet masks are fitted over the dancer's head.
A very good similar piece with only two faces belongs to the collection of the Musee de l'Homme in Paris, France.
A good piece with 4 faces belongs to the collection of the Musee Barbier-Mueller in Geneva, Switzerland, as published on p. 144 in
Douglas Newton,
Sculpture : chefs-dóeuvre de Musee Barbier-Mueller.
Geneva : Musee Barbier-Mueller, 1995, ISBN 2-7433-0076-0.

The following was found on the WWW:
"The ngon-tangwhite-faced helmet masks personify young white women upon their return from the land of the dead beyond the sea. The Fang believe that the color white denotes death and, consequently, ancestral spirits. These helmet masks were worn at solemn community gatherings relating to birth, mourning or important village counsels.
In general, in African art, multifaced masks suggest heigtened vision and the ability to see beyond this world into the next. The Fang themselves have many interpretations for the multifaced mask, including masks with four faces enumerate the four stages of human existence, four faces from a single point recreate the paradigm of family unity; or the faces may be viewed as the four gods in the Fang pantheon"
(Kan and Sieber, African Masterworks in Detroit Institute of Arts, 1995: 113).

"Known as Ngontang (or Ngontanga), this mask variety appeared among the Fang people of southern Cameroon and Gabon shortly before 1920. It represents a spirit of the dead visiting as a young white woman from the world beyond. The mask was used to locate sorcerers–those who misuse spiritual powers–but also performs at feasts, funerals, celebrations of birth, and on the occasion of an important communal decision. Fang interpretation of the four faces on this mask varies from four spirits to four stages of life to four relatives. It should be noted that examples exist with one, two, or three faces. Moreover, many examples bear mask-like faces that are all of the same size."
( Remnants of Ritual WWW site, 2004)

"Known as Ngontang (or Ngontanga), this mask variety appeared among the Fang people of southern Cameroon and Gabon shortly before 1920. It represents a spirit of the dead visiting as a young white woman from the world beyond. The mask was used to locate sorcerers–those who misuse spiritual powers–but also performs at feasts, funerals, celebrations of birth, and on the occasion of an important communal decision. Fang interpretation of the four faces on this mask varies from four spirits to four stages of life to four relatives. It should be noted that examples exist with one, two, or three faces. Moreover, many examples bear mask-like faces that are all of the same size."
http://www.remnantsofritual.com/gallery/064.html 2003 [accessed in 2006]

"The peoples that are called “Fang” in the geographic and ethnographic literature constitute a vast mosaic of village communities, established in a large zone of Atlantic equatorial Africa comprising south Cameroon, continental equatorial Guinea and nearly the whole north of Gabon, on the right bank of the Ogowe River. They are principally hunters, but also farm. Fang social structure is based on the clan, a group of individuals with a common ancestor, and on the family. The habitat is very dispersed, in groups of dwellings that most often include members of a single lineage, the fundamental element of the patriarchal family.
The Fang used masks in their secret societies. The ngontang mask symbolizes a ‘young white girl’. Despite its name, the mask was danced only by initiated men. This helmet mask with four faces is colored with white pigments. These masks were worn in a ritual of the Bieri cult revering departed ancestors. Among the Fang people, the white is the color of the dead, and those with white faces have come to visit the living, bringing magic from the realm of the supernatural. The ngontang masks were used during funeral ceremonies and births. Today such masks serve primarily to entertain audiences on festive occasions."
http://www.arttribal.com/Fang/index.html [accessed in 2006]








 


Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

Boa/Bwa/Bowa/Baboa/Mboa people
from Uele north-eastern Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

old face mask

bought in Antwerp on an auction of antiques, Belgium

NOT available

The Boa are mainly farmers.
They are in frequent contact with Mangbetu and Zande.

Not many genuine, authentic Boa masks are known.
Boa art is principally known for their masks.

Characteristics are

"Des Boa, nous ne pouvons pas dire grand-chose et c'est bien a regret, car parmi les rares objets d'art qui nous sont parvenus de cette tribu, quelques-uns offrent un intérêt exceptionnel. Voisins méridionaux des Zande, les Boa ont su leur opposer une résistance politique efficace; mais d'autre part, leur histoire fait mention d'une ancienne domination Mangbetu et ce fait, a plus d'un titre, est atteste par de œuvres marquées au coin de leur art. Les Boa semblent avoir créé surtout des masques. Les quelques spécimens que nous possédons paraissent provenir de sociétés secrètes; on dit aussi qu'ils furent employés a la guerre. Quoi qu'il en soit, nous en admirons l'admirable stylisation et la riche expression. Les plus typiques sont en somme conçus comme un jeu polyédrique de surfaces colorées, alternativement claires et sombres, ou sont habilement incorpores les divers détails d'un visage: petits yeux en forme de fente, grande bouche armée de dents et surtout oreilles extraordinairement agrandies en forme de plaques circulaires. D'autres masques plus naturalistes, sont également polychromés."
on p. 317 of
Cornet, Joseph; photos, Willy Kerr ; preface, J.D. Mobutu
Art d'Afrique noire au pays du fleuve Zaïre
Brussel : Arcade
1972
365 pp.

Another Boa mask from a private collection is the most similar one that I have seen up to now.
It is shown in the following book on p. 85:
Roy Sieber and Roslyn Adele Walker, African Art in the Cycle of Life. exh. cat.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987 and reprinted afterwards
155 pp. ISBN 0874748216
Both have small, non-circular eyes as mentioned also by
Cornet, Joseph, Art d'Afrique noire au pays du fleuve Zaïre; Brussel : Arcade; 1972; 365 pp.,
in contrast with the round, circular, larger eyes of other published Boa masks.
Both have parts in red-brown, in contrast with other Boa masks that have parts in black and white only.
Both have ears that are cut from the same piece of wood, in contrast with other Boa masks that have separate ears attached to the face.

"The precise function of Boa masks is not known.
They have been described as belonging to warrior or secret associations and are considered to be war masks or disguises used in hunting.
...the planes of these masks are alternatively dark and light, and the masks have small eyes and prominent, round ears, suggesting alertness.
The mouth is open, revealing teeth made from tiny pieces of wood set into the mask."
on p. 85 of Roy Sieber and Roslyn Adele Walker
African Art in the Cycle of Life. exh. cat.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press
1987 and reprinted afterwards
ISBN 0874748216
155 pp.

A good example belongs to the collection of the Museum of Africa in Tervuren, Belgium.
This is shown for instance on p. 569 in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan, L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.
The mask is named Pongdudu and is also shown in the book
by Musee Royal De L'Afrique Centrale (Corporate Author), Els De Palmenaer (Editor), Viviane Baeke (Editor), Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye (Editor), Gustaaf Verswijver (Editor), Roger Asselberghs (Photographer)
Masterpieces from Central Africa: The Tervuren Museum
Publisher: Prestel Publishing
1996
200 pages
The same mask is also shown and described in
http://www.africamuseum.be/collections/browsecollections/humansciences/display_object?objectid=29589

A photo of an example is also shown in
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa,
Thames & Hudson, 1998; ISBN: 0500018707.

"The Boa originated west of the Zaire River. During the 18th century, they migrated eastward toward the Mbomu River. In the 19th century they were attacked by Azande invaders but successfully resisted Azande domination. The Boa were known as excellent warriors, but after 1910 Christian missionaries succeeded in destroying the last remnants of tribal unity (Vansina 1966). The masks of the Boa are extremely rare and have been widely copied.
...
The use and function of the masks are unknown, but they are usually described as war masks that belonged to secret societies or warrior's societies. They have also been described as disguises for hunting monkeys, although their dramatic forms could hardly have inspired confidence in such animals."
(source = The Stanley Collection of African Art at The University of Iowa Museum of Art, WWW site, 1999)

"The Boa tribe comprises 200,000 savanna-dwelling people living in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each village is headed by a chief from the most prestigious clan. The Boa are mainly farmers and are in frequent contact with Mangbetu and Zande. The Boa are known principally for their masks, believed to be used in war-related ceremonies, to enhance the warrior's courage or to celebrate victories. These masks have set apart, prominent, round ears, suggesting alertness, and are covered alternately with dark and light pigments. The Boa also carve statues with apotropaic functions. They also produce harps with human heads carved at the neck."
(source = zyama.com, 2003)




similar masks:


14/04/13

Goxe-Belaïsch EMail : contact@enghien-svv.com Tél. : 01 34 12 68 16

Estimation : 2 400 - 3 200 € Lot n°4

BOA République Démocratique du Congo, ex-Zaïre Masque facial de danse réalisé avec soin par un forgeron-sculpteur de l'ethnie Boa.
Les Boa vivent au nord de l'ex-Zaïre.
Ce type de masque est assez rare compte tenu du peu d'exemplaires connus.
Les larges bandes de couleurs blanches, patinées par le temps, entourant les yeux, la bouche et le front sont très typiques de l'art Boa.
La bouche, bien ouverte, montre encore quelques dents. Ce beau masque, en parfait état de conservation, est accompagné d'un « certificat d'authenticité » signé de l'expert et galeriste, Alain NAOUM (Bruxelles/USA).
Bois polychrome. Provenance: Ex-coll. Alain Naoum.
Coll. privée Belge (Bruxelles)
Dimensions: 25,5 x 16 cm

\







 

Kumu / Komo / Kikomo / Kikumu / Kumo or related people/tribe from North Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

face mask / masque

 

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

I have never seen a very similar mask.

The rectangular open eyes, the rectangular, open mouth, the visible teeth, the speckles of paint on the face and the vertical division of the face in a left and a right part are all typical characteristics for masks produced by various people living in the Ituri region in North Congo (Kumu, Lese, Bira...)

see for instance p. 222-223
Schädler/Schaedler, Karl Ferdinand
Gods Spirits Ancestors: African sculpture from private German Collections, Villa Stuck
München : Panterra
1992
247 pages
ISBN 3781403416

The "cutout"  in the region of the eyes is typical for masks of the Bwaka/Ngbaka and related people in the Region of the Ubangi/Oubangui river in North Congo

see for instance p. 228-229
Schädler/Schaedler, Karl Ferdinand
Gods Spirits Ancestors: African sculpture from private German Collections, Villa Stuck
München : Panterra
1992
247 pages
ISBN 3781403416

The inset teeth made out of wood and also the cutouts are typical for masks from the Boa people, also from North Congo.

"Kumu masks are amongst the most important objects to their culture. They are used by the Nkunda society of sorcerers who call upon primordial ancestors for purposes of social control. Taking hallucinogens was part of these cermonies and during the ensuing trance information was revealed. This served the Kumu as one of major methods of divination."
(source = David Stiffler, Ethnix Tribal Arts, 2003)

this mask has been published on the cover of the book
Eradiquer les dieux, de  JC Sitzia - Le Blond,
http://editions-passe-murailles.net/
2008
ISBN 978-2-9532824-0-5

 








Bushoong / Bushong / Bushongo / Bambala / Kuba / Bakuba / Bacouba people from central Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

M' bwoom / Bwoom / Mboom helmet mask

frontal view     backside view     side view

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

A photo of this mask has been included in

an encyclopedia on the WWW:
http://proleksis.lzmk.hr/natuknica.aspx?ID=40154

a calendar for the year 2006: http://www.vitamin-advertising.com/universalna_calendar2006/

 

Typical for these masks are:

All these elements together indicated the high rank of the mask. The costume worn with the mask is a raffia tunic that prevents any part of the dancer's body from being seen, because he is representing a spirit.

This is one of the sensational types of masks.

More details, photos, and bibliographic references can be found for instance in

Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., on p. 456.

Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau and Lucien Stephan
Formes et couleurs: sculptures de l'Afrique noir.
Paris : Musee Dapper, 1993, on pp. 38-40

Musee Royal De L'Afrique Centrale (Corporate Author), Els De Palmenaer (Editor), Viviane Baeke (Editor), Anne-Marie Bouttiaux-Ndiaye (Editor), Gustaaf Verswijver (Editor), Roger Asselberghs (Photographer)
Masterpieces from Central Africa: The Tervuren Museum
Publisher: Prestel Publishing, 1996, 200 pages
Language: English

the chapter by Constantin Petridis,
Les arts du basin du Congo.
in the book Arts d' Afrique, sous la direction de Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau, Musee Dapper, Gallimard; 2000

the book by Peter Stephen
World Art : Africa
Prestel, 2001.

These masks were/are danced in certain royal ceremonies, initiation ceremonies and funerals. Related royal masks of the Kuba are those of the king (elephant mask) named moshambwooy/moshamwooy and his mythical wife/sister named ngady amwaash. These creations have been transmitted through many generations  and in this process their original meaning seems to have been lost.
(source = Formes et couleurs: sculptures de l'Afrique noir. Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau and Lucien Stephan. Paris : Musee Dapper, 1993).

All the types of royal masks show off with shells that were very valuable in past centuries, and only affordable by the rich and that were used as money. Decoration in general was important for the Kuba: bodies, tissues and tools were decorated.
Bwoom is a legendary figure that is sometimes is interpreted as a prince, a Pygmy or a hydrocephalic, or as an agitator against the king; the legend states that Bwoom contested his brother's right to the thrown and his marriage to Ngady amwaash, represented by the royal female mask.

"Kuba: Kingdom located between the Kasai, Sankuru and Lulua rivers in the region of West Kasai, Zaïre. The kingdom was multi-ethnic, with the Bushong ruling over a number of other ethnic groups: Ngende, Bulang, Pyang, Pyang Ibaam, Kayuweng, Kaam, Bieng (also inhabiting a chiefdom to the south), Kel, Ngongo, Ngombe, Maluk, Mbengi, Shoowa (Shobwa), Iding, Kete, Coofa and Cwa. In a strict sense, ‘Kuba art’ refers to the arts of the Kuba kingdom; there is no relationship between style and ethnic grouping. In a wider sense, ‘Kuba art’ includes the arts of neighbouring peoples whose artistic works are similar to those produced within the Kuba kingdom. Such peoples include the Lele and Wongo beyond the Kasai River to the west; the Biombo between the Kasai and Lulua rivers; the Ooli, Ekolombi and other small groups north of the River Sankuru; as well as the Ndengese across the Lokenye River and the Binji to the east. Kuba art first became known about in Europe in the 1890s through Ludwig Wolf’s account (1891). Scholarly understanding of Kuba arts is still based mainly on the collections made in the 1890s and 1900s by William Sheppard, Leo Frobenius and Emil Torday. These are held, respectively in the main, by the Hampton University College Museum of Hampton Institute, Hampton, VA; the Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin; and the British Museum, London. These are just three of the many public collections of Kuba art.
Kuba masks and other arts:
Among the major focuses for Kuba art were the rites of passage, especially boys’ initiations. The latter involved the building of a wall, in front of which stood a tall statue of a woman symbolizing the ancestress, studded with carved heads and other symbolic objects, as well as masks.
All wooden Kuba masks clearly belong to a single style. The oldest one, Bwoom, represents the nature spirit Ngesh, Pygmy or Commoner depending on the context. It often forms part of a group including one depicting the ancestor of mankind, Mwaash aMbooy  and his sister, Ngady aMwaash . Beyond these, a dozen other mask types exist, associated with initiation and representing such figures as Lord, Mother, Wise Man, Elephant, Ram and Antelope. Masks were also used at funerals and at the royal dancing-play, Itul, in which King, Mwaash aMbooy, and Commoner, Bwoom, fought over Woman, Ngady aMwaash.
In addition to the wooden masks, a set made in fibre and netting represented Servant of Initiation, Snake and Antelope and perhaps some others. A study of mask types, their nomenclature and their iconography is still needed. Regional variability is important here. The Bushong at the capital, the Bushong and the Kete in the south of the country, the Pyang, the eastern Kuba, the Biombo and perhaps some of the other Kuba groups had their own initiation rituals and their own masks and icons (see Africa, fig. 85). Among the Bulang and Kete in the south of the country some tall masks representing the whole bodies of ancestresses or spirits were also in use.
Other objects associated with religion included special hats for medicine men and the village priests and priestesses. There were no idols, but there were representations of charms, including free-standing statues (ishak a dweemy) and tiny carved figures on the top of dancing staffs (shaang a dweemy), as well as the small (20–30 mm) figures representing spirits of nature or the dead (nnoon), especially common in the south-east. The main oracle, the poison ordeal, used no art objects, but the rubbing oracle, itoom, did. It consisted of a small carving representing one of four animals related to water spirits, or the body of a nature spirit itself, with a flat back for rubbing along the top of the oracle.
Overall, however, religion was less a focus for visual art than was the political organization. The royal enthronement costume assimilated the badges of all ranks, but it also included elements proper only to the king. The royal anvil was a symbol of the legitimacy of kingship and its links to the supernatural. The royal funerals and installations, using a mass of visual symbols, including the mask Nsho aMwaash aMbooy, emphasized the uniqueness and the continuity of kingship as well as its relation to the administration.
Kings and chiefs alike possessed drums, stools, adzes and fly-whisks, costumes and baskets of office. According to rank, notables shared some of these insignia."
(source = Jan Vansina in the Grove Dictionary of Art [online] cited 2005)
 

"The Kuba live in the Lower Kasai region of central Zaire in a rich environment of dense forest and savanna. Organized into a federation of chiefdoms, the almost 200 000 Kuba are a diverse group of over eighteen different peoples unified under the Bushong king. They share a single economy and, to varying degrees, common cultural and historical traditions. Agriculture is the main occupation, supplemented by hunting, fishing, and trading. The name "Kuba" comes from the Luba people to the southeast. The Kuba call themselves "the children of Woot"— after their founding ancestor (Vansina 1964:6;1078:4).
Praised as "God on Earth," the king, nyim, is a divine ruler who controls fertility and communicates with the creator, Mboom. The royal court at Nsheng is a hierarchical complex of councils and titled officials who advise the king and balance his power. Outlying Kuba chiefdoms are largely autonomous, organized on models analogous to those of the capital but on a lesser scale (Vansina 1964:98-99; 1978:216). Kuba society parallels governmental organization in that it is stratified. Yet the Kuba people prize hard work and achievement, and while position of birth may secure advantage, it is not binding (Vansina 1964:188;1968:13,15).
Kuba religion, however, is not highly organized. The creator is recognized but is not formally worshiped. More consideration is given to Woot, who led the Kuba migration "up river" and established matrilineal descent, male initiation, and kingship. Local nature spirits, tended by priests and priestesses, are actively involved in people's lives, notably in matters of fertility, health, and hunting. The Kuba have no ancestor cult but do believe in reincarnation (Vansina 1964:9-10).
Kuba arts primarily address status, prestige, and the court; they are manifestations of social and political hierarchy. Rank and wealth are expressed in extensive displays of regalia: jewelry, 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 (Torday 1910:250; Vansina 1955:140).
Three royal mask types exist: the tailored Mwaash aMbooy, representing Woot and the king; the wooden face mask, Ngady Mwaash aMbooy, the incestuous sister-wife of Woot; and the wooden helmet mask, Bwoom, the commoner. These characters appear in a variety of contexts including public ceremonies, rites involving the king, and initiations. Although their dances are generally solo, together the three royal masks reenact Kuba myths of origin (Cornet 1982:254,256; Roy 1979:170).
Bwoom is a wooden helmet mask elucidated by varied oral traditions. The Kuba feel that one " 'understands' the why of something if one knows how it 'began'; something is known if it is explained" (Vansina 1978:15). Thus Bwoom is the spirit first seen by nkan initiates; he is a hydrocephalic prince, a commoner, a pygmy, or one who opposes the king's authority. Two traditions trace Bwoom's origin to the reign of King Miko mi-Mbul, who had gone mad after killing the children of his precedessor. Although he finally became sane, Miko would lapse into madness each time he wore Mwaash aMbooy, the most important royal mask and until then the only one worn by the king himself. A pygmy offered the king Bwoom as an alternative. Suffering no ill effects with the new mask, Miko accepted it. A less dramatic version is that Miko, known as a great dancer, was simply seduced by the pygmy's creation and adopted it despite its humble character. In both cases the King is credited with improvements to the mask that justify its inclusion in the royal repertoire (Cornet 1982:269).
As inconsistent as they may seem, each account expresses an aspect of the mask or its character. The identification of Bwoom as a pygmy or a hydrocephalic man is often cited to explain the mask's enlarged forehead and broad nose. Bwoom appears in initiation and is always considered a spirit. The lowly origin of the character is reflected in its description: "a person of low standing scarcely worthy of being embodied by the king" (Cornet 1975: 89) and conversely in its defiant performance opposite the regal Mwaash aMbooy. The two may act out a competition for the affections of the one female in the royal mask trio, Ngady mwaash aMbooy (Cornet 1982:255). Mwaash aM-booy's dance is calm and stately, while Bwoom acts with pride and aggression (Cornet 1982:255). The masks are easily differentiated by material, for Bwoom is carved from a single piece of wood and Mwaash aMbooy is made from cloth and raffia textiles.
Bwoom appears on the nkan "initiation fence" of the Bushong (Vansina 1955:150-151) and in other initiation contexts. Little is known of this mask (or indeed most Kuba arts) outside of the royal Nsheng tradition. A royal mask, Bwoom is sometimes worn by the king. Yet unlike Mwaash aMbooy, Bwoom does not appear at funerals, and it is never interred with the king or other dignitaries (Cornet 1982:270). The costume is similar to that of Mwaash aMbooy: heavy with profuse layers of raffia-cloth, bead and cowrie decoration, leopard skins, anklets, armlets, and fresh leaves. Eagle feathers or other prestigious media are added to the crown of the head when the mask is danced.
Despite regional variations, the Bwoom mask conforms to a distinct type. All styles feature strongly rendered proportions dominated by an enlarged brow, broad nose, and usually naturalistic ears. Typical features include the metal work on the forehead, cheeks, and mouth, bands of beads that embellish the face, and an expanse of beadwork at the temples and back of the head."
(source = Bonnie E. Weston)

"The last member of the royal mask trinity is the character bwoom, the commoner who defies the authority of the chief mosh'ambooy and competes for the favors of ngady a mwaash. The bulging forehead may imitate the heads of the Tshwa pygmies, whom the Bushongo recognize as the original owners of their land (Cornet 1978:202). The bwoom can be recognized by its helmet shape, bulging forehead, sheets of copper applied to the face, and particularly by the band of beads,... dividing the face horizontally and covering the eyes. As in the case of the mosh’ambooy, the back of the head is covered with a colorful beaded pattern. Over one hundred recognized designs are given names associated with the names of the kings in whose reigns they originated (Cornet 1971:211)."
(source = Stanley Collection of African Art database at The University of Iowa Museum of Art, 1999)

"The Kuba are part of a large complex of tribes that is dominated by the BuShongo (Bambala) group. In the sixth century a migration into the Kasai area of Sudanese peoples under the rule of king Minga Bengela took place subjugating the native Bantu-speaking peoples. The invaders united the former village units into feudal kingdoms resulting in a political confederacy of tribes under one king [the "Nyimi"]. Kingdom comprised 17 sub-tribes of which the Bambala was the most important since all kings came from it and Mingenia, the capital, was located within its territory. Succession was in the female line and the Nyimi traces his lineage back to Bumba, the creator and first king. While his title of "Chembe Kunji" or "god on earth" indicated his divine origin, the king's absolute power was checked by a council of men and women. This political system was still flourishing in 1885 but by 1908 it had dissolved.
The Kuba are basically farmers although they hunt extensively. They worship a Creator god and nature spirits to whom they appeal with charms and devotions. Religion is under the direction of a diviner who communicates with the "ngesh" spirits.
Kuba artists relied more on color and pattern than on sculptural forms. The Kuba produced elaborate art for both ritual and secular purposes. In the textile arts they produce "kasai velvet cloth." This cloth was made from the bark of a fig tree which had been soften and beaten on a firm surface with a special mallet. After the cloth is made by the men, the women use a variety of embroidery techniques to create geometric designs on the cloth. Masks combine form with polychromy plus beads, shells, raffia and cloth. Utilitarian style also existed and also exhibited some stylization.
The Kuba have elaborate courtly art forms, including royal portrait statues, elegant cups, drums, containers, dolls and numerous regalia for persons of high rank. The Court Style is represented in the king statutes which combine stylized symbolism with individualism. In oral tradition he Kuba can list 121 kings in genealogical charts that go back to AD 490. In order the Royal Statues or "Ndop" began with Shamba Bolongongo in the seventeenth century. The images effectively communicate the dignity and sense of command that is the ideal hallmark of a king. All of the statues conform to a standard model whose attitude implies reflection, will power and aristocratic aloofness. While the carving of the royal statues was strictly confined the artist found opportunities for expression in other carvings, notably the ceremonial cups.
The Bwoom mask is thought to represent a rival of the culture hero, Woot. This helmet type mask represents an ancient category of masks. Tradition states that the first of its kind was made by the artist Shamatula under the Nyimi Bo Kena [the 73rd king who ruled sometime in the mid 1300's]. These masks are worn at initiations and show anthropomorphic features. A triple band on the forehead is either painted or carved. Tattoo marks, embellished with brass, cowrie shells and rows of beads on nose are typical of this style.
BuShongo Creation Myth:
An elderly childless couple received a visit from a white-skinned celestial being. The fair stranger identified himself as the Lord Bomazi and announced to the couple that soon they would be blessed with a child. The aged pair laughed heartily at the absurdity of this statement. Yet the prophecy came true in time and the woman bore a daughter. When the girl was fully grown, Bomazi returned to wed her. The union produced five sons who became the rulers of separate territories. The first two were the twins Woto and Moelo. Woto became the father of the BuShongo.
The first documented successor [ca. AD 1600] was Shamba of the Bonnet [Bologono], a traveler, innovator and peacemaker. The BuShongo credit a host of good things to this ruler including the introduction of raffia weaving, embroidery, crafts and the Mankala game which successfully eradicated the widespread habit of gambling."
(source = The Utah Museum of Fine Arts WWW site)

"Bwoom headdresses are one of the royal masquerades in the Kuba Kingdom of Zaire. They are regarded as "friends of the king" in the dual sense that they are actually worn by the ruler and they represent a spirit, or ngesh. Used in festivals and initiations, the dance of bwoom conveys qualities of youthful vigor and pride. According to tradition it began during the reign of King Miko mi Mbul (about 1800-1835)."
(source = Cleveland Museum of Art WWW site, 2002)

"Mosh'ambooy and Bwoom are two important masks employed by the Kuba people to reenact myths that tell the story of how the Kuba nation began. Because these masks were worn as helmets, covering the entire head of the person wearing it, they had to be made with rather light materials. Although the Bwoom mask is made of wood, it is a type of wood that was light and easy to carve. These masks are also decorated with beautiful shells, beads and cloth.
The principal character is Woot, the mythical ancestor believed to have established the Kuba's royal lineage, and represented by a mask called Mosh'ambooy. This mask is identified by its pipe-like shape projecting from the top of the mask and looking like the trunk of an elephant. Another important character is Woot's sister, Mweel, who is represented at dances with the mask Ngady a mwaash. In the creation story, Woot leaves his village because he has leprosy and his sister Mweel leaves with him. They live in the forest where Mweel becomes the wife of Woot. (This relationship is similar to the Greek creation myth of Zeus and Hera, who were brother and sister as well as husband and wife.) When Woot was cured, he returned to his village, but soon fled once the villagers discovered his relationship with his sister. Angry with the villagers, Woot destroyed the village and took away the sun, leaving the world in complete darkness and desolation. At Mweel's request, Woot returned light and growth to the land. In the myth, Woot travels throughout the countryside creating plants and animals, and leaving people on the land, where the Kuba eventually settled.
Bwoom is considered the opposite of Mosh'ambooy. While the latter is a great leader, Bwoom is a mere commoner who disobeys Woot and pursues Mweel. The Bwoom masks often have a bulging forehead, which may mimic the heads of the pygmies who were destroyed by Woot in the creation story. Also common for these masks are the patterned rows of beads which divide the mask into parts and covers the eyes."
(source = Palmer Museum of Art WWW site, 2002)

"The masks of the Kuba are among the most imaginative and colorful in all Africa. One of the three royal masks, the Bwoom is one of the oldest mask types used by the Kuba. It is said to have been introduced in the seventeenth century by King Miko mi-Mbul. The masqueraders appear on numerous ceremonial occasions, embodying different characters depending on the context. At boys’ initiations, Bwoom represents the nature spirit Ngeesh. As part of the royal mask trio, he personifies an opposition, recalcitrant character who struggles with his brother Woot for power and for possession of his wife and sister, Ngaady a Mwaash. In his role as an insurgent who challenges the throne and its system, Bwoom is moreover associated with non-aristocratic, common man. The rebellious aspect of the Bwoom masquerader is expressed in a proud and aggressive style of dancing. According to one of the various legends surrounding the origin of the Bwoom, the bulging forehead and form of the mask imitate the heads of pigmies or the Tshwa people."
"Numbering about 250,000 the Kuba live in the area of central DRC bordered by the Sankuru, Kasai, and Lulua rivers. This is a region of valleys where numerous rivers flow south to north; the hills are covered with brush and the rivers are bordered by forests. Farming, aside from clearing the fields, was women’s work; they cultivate manioc, corn, gourds, bananas, pineapples, and palms. Tobacco was grown by the men. The hunt, a collective enterprise using nets, brought prestige and reinforced the social cohesion between the villagers. To fish the rivers required the participation of the entire village in order to build canoes. Although today most Kuba ethnic groups are organized into independent chiefdoms, they still recognize the authority of the Bushong king.
The art of the Kuba is one of the most highly developed of all African traditions, and significant cultural accomplishments are part of their heritage.
Over twenty types of masks are used among the Kuba, with meanings and functions that vary from group to group. Kuba wooden helmet masks are probably the most commonly produced items, popular with the collectors. These striking masks are wonderfully decorated with geometrical surface designs in dazzling contrasts of color, pattern, and texture. Hide, animal hair, fur, beads, cowrie shells, and feathers further ornament the masks, and costumes of bark-cloth, raffia fiber fabric, and beaded elements complete the manifestation of nature spirits, intermediaries between the Supreme Being and the people. One widespread context for masking is initiation. Every several years a group of boys will be inducted into manhood through the initiation which transforms uncircumcised boys into initiated men who possess esoteric knowledge. Funerals are a second important context for masks throughout the Kuba area. A hierarchy of masks appears at funerals even of untitled men, though they are especially important at the funerals of titleholders. Three types of masks have been associated with dances that take place within the royal compound. The first, called Moshambwooy, represents Woot, the founder of the Bushoong clan. The second, known as Nady Amwaash, personifies the wife/sister of Woot. The third mask, called Bwoon, represents a ‘pygmy’. Other masks are collectively known as Isheene Mwalu."
(source = www.zyama.com, 2002)

"Helmet masks of this kind are known among the Bushoong as Bwoom. This is one of the three so-called royal masks of the Kuba, the others being the Mwaash a Mbouy and the Ngaady a Mwaash. In reality it seems that the concept of a triad of "royal masks" has been grossly oversimplified. In truth, the Kuba/Bushoong produce a diversity of masks, and many can perform by themselves or in conjunction with lesser known initiatory or village masks. The Bwoom mask is quite possibly the autochthonous mask of the region, with variants in nearly all of the Kuba sub-groups. Though Bushoong folk tales exist to explain its appearance as a pygmy or a hydrocephalic, the mask may have more in common with other large masculine helmet masks dispersed over the wider general area. Unlike other Kuba masks such as the Mwaash a Mbouy, which is usually buried with its owner, the Bwoom may be passed down from one person to another. Thus it is not unusual to find old–in some cases ancient–Bwoom masks still being used by young dancers."
(source = Remnants of Ritual WWW site, 2003)

"The Kuba live in the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and are part of a large complex of tribes encompassing 18 ethnic groups all dominated by the BuShongo, the ruling group. They grow manioc, corn, millet, beans and groundnuts and hunt extensively. The Kuba are matrilineal so descent is traced through one’s mother, but they are patrilocal so that children reside with their father. Their political system consists of a king who presides over a council made up of representatives of various kin groups and trade guilds. Under them are various administrative officials. Under colonialism, the kingdom was largely broken up by the late 19th century.
Among the many masks of the Kuba people are three that represent the royal founding dynasty. Mwaash aMboy, Bwoom, and Ngaady aMwaash are believed to be depictions of the first king, his wife and his brother.
The Mwaash aMboy mask embodies the original ancestor Woot, the first human and bringer of civilization, who founded the ruling Bushoong dynasty of the Kuba kingdom. Each Kuba king and sub-chief owns an Mwaash aMboy mask and wears it ceremonially to demonstrate his dynastic legitimacy. The king wears this mask during royal ceremonies and at boys’ initiation rites when he receives homage from the nobility and people of his kingdom. The mask's rich decoration of cowrie shells, beads, and leopard skin symbolizes its royal status. White fur is attached below the chin of the mask to signify the wisdom that rulers gain from experience. The mask is part of a full body costume, made of blue and white colored beads (blue signifies high rank, white signifies purity), cowrie shells, leopard skins, and the feathers of eagles and parrots to display the king's unique wealth and status. The king's dance is slow and stately, as befits a man full of gravity and wisdom. When kings died, the mask could be placed on a royal effigy to represent him although kings were often buried with their mask.
The Mukyeem or Mukenge mask is a version of the Mwaash aMboy mask made by the Ngeende people who were integrated into the eastern part of the Kuba kingdom during the sixteenth century. It has a stylized elephant’s trunk on top instead of a fan surmounted with feathers, as does the more traditional Mwaash aMboy mask. The Mukyeem may only be worn by a male member of the royal family. This highly decorated mask is danced at the funeral of a male relative or worn at the initiation rites to symbolizes the culture hero, Woot, who originated not only the royal dynasty but the political structure and most of the arts and crafts. The superstructure of the mask represent the trunk of an elephant which is a royal emblem and symbolizes the power of the elephant and, by extension, that of the king. The two beaded strips at each side of the base of the mask represent the elephant’s tusks. The eyes represent those of the chameleon. When the mask is worn, red parrot feathers adorn the trunk’s end.
...
The mask, with its bulging forehead, is thought to represent Woot’s evil brother, Bwoom, in a ritual reenactment of Kuba mythological origins and royal power struggles. This helmet-type mask represents an ancient category of masks. Tradition states that the first of its kind was made by the artist Shamatula under the Nyimi (king) Bo Kena, the 73rd king who ruled sometime in the mid 1300s. Tattoo marks, embellished with brass, cowrie shells and rows of beads on the nose are typical of this style. Though seeking both the throne of his brother, Woot, and the king's wife, Bwoom nevertheless symbolically speaks for the common man."
(source = Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, http://www.umfa.utah.edu/, 2005)

More information is perhaps available in:

Belepe Bope Mabintshi
Etude socio-morphologique des masques Bwoom des Kuba.
Lubumbashi, UNAZA, l974, mémoire de licence.

Belepe Bope Mabintshi
La décoration des masques Kuba: l'exemple du Bwoom.
Likundoli, 3, 1976, 1, p. 30-40.

Belepe Bope Mabintshi
La triade des masques Bwoom, Mosh'Ambooy et Ngady a Mwaash des Kuba du Zaïre.
Louvain, 1982, thèse de doctorat.

 




https://www.tubmanmuseum.com/









Bonhams auction 16 Feb 2009 San Francisco
African and Oceanic Art
auction 16979
5096 Property of various owners A Kuba Bwoom helmet mask Democratic Republic of Congo, of typical from, the mask with beaded attachments and applied metal and cowrie shells, overall patina of use. height 14in
Estimate: US$ 1,000 - 1,500 €750 - 1,100 £640 - 960









Het Bwoom masker behoort tot de drie belangrijkste koninklijke maskers van de Kuba, namelijk de mosh'amb(w)ooy, de bwoom en de nga(a)dy a mwaash. Deze maskers zijn sacraal, ze zijn de weergave van mingesh (ev. ngesh), natuurgeesten die optreden als bemiddelaars tussen het Opperwezen (Nyeem) en de mensen. Ze hebben elk een eigen persoonlijkheid en naam en wonen in het woud op de plaatsen waar water aanwezig is, zoals bij bronnen, rivieren en poelen. De mingesh zorgen voor vruchtbaarheid, succes bij de jacht en het genezen van ziekten. De cultusleden die met hen dansen en de koning worden na hun dood zelf een ngesh (Burssens 1995: 337) Het Bwoom masker zou een Pygmeeënhoofd moeten voorstellen. Volgens Hardy (1927) zou het land van de Kuba als onvervreemdbaar eigendom van de Pygmeeën beschouwd worden en zouden deze autochtone bewoners, in de gedachten van de Bantu indringers (waaronder de Kuba), in aardse geesten zijn veranderd. Volgens andere tradities is het masker een hydrocefale prins en weer anderen stellen dat het de uitbeelding is van een ngesh is die zich in het verleden openbaarde aan initiandi. Vansina (1978) vermoedt dat de vormgeving van de Bwoom al dateert uit de 18e eeuw en dat het gaat om het oudste maskertype. Het Bwoom masker is 'blind', de ogen zijn niet doorboord. De maskerdanser moet kijken door de neusgaten die wel opengewerkt zijn. De dansers zijn verder geheel bedekt met een kostuum. De uitbundige versiering van het masker wijst erop dat het hier een koninklijk masker betreft. In de dans van dit masker ligt de nadruk op het plezier van het dansen en niet zozeer op het personage dat het masker uitbeeldt. Door het gehele optreden zijn wel verwijzingen naar vroeger dagen verweven. Dit type masker tot slot wordt zorgvuldig bewaard en vormen een blijvend symbool van de continuïteit van de families. Het masker behoort tot de drie belangrijkste maskers bij de Kuba. Dit masker wordt samen met een andere gedanst tijdens een optreden dat de oorsprongsmythen van de Kuba zou voorstellen. Bwoom is Woot's kwade broer, en figureert in Kuba dansen over mythologische oorsprong en koninklijke machtsstrijd. Hoewel Bwoom zowel de troon als de vrouw van de koning ambieerde, spreekt het masker symbolisch voor de gewone man.

Herkomst Kuba, Democratische Republiek Congo
Inheemse naam Bwoom
Datering voor/before 1959
Afmetingen circa 55 x 25cm (21 5/8 x 9 13/16in.)
Inventarisnummer 2767-1

Schatten uit de Tropen. Zwarte Beertjes 591/592, pagina 35
Faber, P., S. Wijs & D. van Dartel, 'Africa at the Tropenmuseum'. Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2011

http://collectie.tropenmuseum.nl/default.aspx









Vente AuctionArt - Rémy Le Fur & Associés
Vente aux enchères du Lundi 9 décembre 2013
Art Africain
Lot 45 : MASQUE BWOOM
Estimation : 800 / 1 000 €
Bois, perles de verre, cuivre, fourrure de singe, cauris, de perles de verre et de graines.
Des plaques de cuivre martelées sont clouées sur le front bombé le haut des joues et de chaque côté de la bouche. La bouche est close par des crochets de fer. La coiffe est en fourrure de singe fixée sur du raphia. La nuque est décorée d'un bel entrelacs de perles blanches et brunes.
REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO, Province Lulua, Kuba.
Haut. 33 cm - Haut 39 cm









 

The Kuba are also known for their textiles.

 

 

 

Bashilele / Lele people

face mask

good expression of the face in comparison with many other published masks of this type

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

A photo of this mask has been included in an encyclopedia on the WWW:
http://proleksis.lzmk.hr/natuknica.aspx?ID=40154






 

 

Kuba / Bakuba or Kete or Biombo or Bashilele / Lele people from north Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

face mask

 

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

The original photo in colors of this particular mask has been used in 2010 in Brazil on a poster in black & white, shown on the WWW:
http://www.uiadiario.com.br/tag/show/page/83/  http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_9REWsMd1bgo/TASE_vQ5gDI/AAAAAAAALtI/tP_jH5rgolw/s1600/06_03_n.jpg

 

The Bashilele/Lele live west of the Kasai river, north of the Pende and the Tchokwe tribes, and the Kuba/Bakuba live east of the Kasai. They are often named a subgroup of the Kuba/Bakuba, but they have maintained their social and cultural identity through time. Lele masks share some design element with those of the Kuba: the geometric, decorative patterns and the use of woven raffia and cowrie shells. Most Lele masks are rather flat with slit eyes and a small round mouth. Little has been published about the function of Lele masks; probably they were danced during funeral ceremonies.

The Lele society has been described briefly in
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L' art et les grandes civilizations: L' art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp.

"The Lele live west of the Kasai River, north of the Pende. The Kuba live just across the Kasai to the east. The Lele are believed to have come from the area of Lake Tumba and Lake Leopold II with the Kuba, crossing to the east of the Kasai only after clashes with the Bushong (Douglas 1963:110). They are a matrilineal society, organized around age grades. The largest political system is the village, ruled nominally by the village chief who is the most senior male of the founding clan, but actually controlled by a balance of power between age sets (Douglas 1963:68-77). Lele masks are rare, and little is known about their function. Mary Douglas, who worked in the area in the 1950's has said that the Lele do not make masks, yet the style of this object conforms to conventions present in other objects, including boxes, pipes, and cups, that have been attributed to the Lele. These characteristics have been described in the entry for the beautiful Lele pipe, and here include the very simple outline of the mask, the arched eyes and brows, and the broad, flat planes of the cheeks.
...
 Masks are used in similar ways among the Kuba, who share a creation myth with the Lele. The spots on the Stanley mask suggest the markings of a leopard. Leopards have great importance among the Lele. When a man kills a leopard, he gains status among his age set. The skin of a leopard can be traded to the aristocratic clan of the Tundu as the fine for murder (Douglas 1963:197). Diviners are said to transform themselves into leopards, especially when they battle the sorcerer of another village, which may appear in the form of a leopard (Douglas 1963:229)."
(source =  Stanley Collection Database, 1999)

"Les Bashilele vivent au sud-ouest du Kasaï, au nord des groupes ethniques Pende et Tshokwe, les Kuba se situant quant à eux plus à l'est du fleuve. Inconnus des occidentaux qui ne les découvrirent qu'en 1907, leur territoire actuel s'étend sur les terres occupées jadis par les pygmées. Souvent assimilés aux Kuba, dont ils ont adopté de nombreuses coutumes, les Bashilele ont pourtant su préserver leur identité culturelle propre. Les masques Bashilele sont rares, la plupart sont assez plats, les yeux très bridés, avec une petite bouche ronde et une sorte d'excroissance au niveau des tempes. Leur statut et leur fonction sont à ce jour mal connus. Toutefois, il semblerait que ces masques apparaissent lors des danses accompagnant les cérémonies funéraires des chefs du clan, et à l'occasion des cérémonies annuelles fondatrices. Le rôle joué par les clans fondateurs du lignage est primordial lors de ces cérémonies, auxquelles participent également les membres de la société ndai des chasseurs et ceux de la société secrète des devins (oracle itombwa)."
(source = Artheos WWW site, 2003)

On the WWW site of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, USA, http://www.nmafa.si.edu/pubaccess/index.htm in 2004, we can read the following:
"Lele masks are thought to have appeared in dances accompanying the burial rites of chiefs and in annual foundation/creation ceremonies. Masks have a similar use among the Kuba, who share a creation myth with the Lele."

"Lele stylistic traits exhibited by the mask include a broad, flat face; wide forehead; round narrowing chin; arched eyebrows; narrow slit eyes; long, narrow triangular-shaped nose; and a small mouth."
(source = The Diversity of African Art WWW site, 2005)

"The 20,000 Lele people occupy the western region of the Kuba kingdom and live from hunting and agriculture. They are believed to have come from the area of Lake Tumba and Lake Leopold II with the Kuba crossing to the east of the Kasai River only after clashes with the Bushong (Kuba sub-group).
They are a matrilineal society, organised around age grades. The largest political system is the village, ruled nominally by the village chief who is the most senior male of the founding clan, but it is actually controlled by a balance of power between age sets (Mary Douglas 1963: 68-77:110).
The art of the Lele is not well known and generally lumped in with that of the Kuba as it is similar in style - except for the masks which have a flattened shape. Their most prominent art forms are carved drums, divination instruments, boxes, pipes and palm wine cups. Lele carvers also produce statuettes and masks. The masks are generally rare and their function is little known.
Several theories on the use of the mask exist, including its use in the funerary rites of a chief (Francois Neyt 1981:173 & Jean Baptiste Bacquart 1998:173) and as one of the 3 masks used in the annual foundling celebrations (Felix 1987:74).
Essentially they are used in a similar way to the Kuba who share the creation myth with the Lele."
(2009)









 

Lulua/Luluwa people

face mask

 

bought on an auction in Antwerp, Belgium

not available

The many scarifications, the traces of red pigment, the concave face, and the protuberant lips make it probable that this is an old Lulua/Luluwa mask, because these characteristics are also found in old photos of people and in their well-known small sculptures.

Traces of red pigment can be seen on the mask. Also this is in accordance with the fact that red pigment was used by the Luluwa/Lulua people on many of their statues and masks. An example of a Luluwa mask with red pigments has been published in
Frank Herreman & Constantijn Petridis (editors)
FACE OF THE SPIRITS, Masks from the Zaïre Basin
Antwerpen, Gent
Snoeck & Ducaju
1993
262 pages

Not many similar masks have been published.

A mask with similar form (pointed chin) and pronounced, protruding  almond-shaped eyes has been published as "Masque Mbagani, Zaire, bois" by
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., p. 458.


"Girl wearing a cluster of metal hairpin ornaments. Her scarification is similar to that of the Bena Lulua of south-central Zaire. The Secret Museum of Mankind (New York: Manhattan House, no date.)"
from http://curatedchic.blogspot.be/2010/07/embellishment-from-africa.html  

Lulua is an umbrella term, which refers to a large number of heterogeneous peoples who populate the region near the Lulua River, between the Kasai and Sankuru rivers. The Lulua people migrated from western Africa during the 18th century and settled in the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). They number 300,000 and live in small regional chiefdoms and in times of crisis elect a common leader. The role of the village chief is to insure juridical, political and social cohesion. During the late 19th century, Lulua culture underwent radical changes. In 1875, the Lulua king, Kalambam, introduces new social and religious regulations, which ended the traditional palm-wine drinking and hemp smoking.
Their economy is mostly based on agriculture, hunt and trade. Primarily farmers, Lulua women grow manioc as a staple crop, as well as beans, sweet potatoes, maize, yams, peanuts, and bananas. The men are responsible for clearing the forest and preparing the soil for cultivation. They also hunt, fish with nets, and trap animals in the surrounding forests. Salt is found in the region and is collected and sold to neighbors to generate income.
...
As for Lulua masks, the heterogeneous composition of the people and the considerable area they occupy, explain the many stylistic overlappings with their neighbors. The formal and functional diversity of the masks testifies to the region as an ethnic crossroads and sometimes makes it difficult to confirm their origin. One can distinguish at least two categories of wooden Lulua masks. The first group consists of face masks with concave eye-sockets and intricate geometric painted patterns; the second consists of face masks with concave eye-sockets, simpler patterns, and plank-shaped crest. Lulua masks with their pointed nose and deep eye-sockets were probably used during circumcision and funeral ceremonies."
(source=http://www.zyama.com/lulua/pics..htm, cited 2012)

A related mask of top quality was sold at auction by Sotheby's in 2012 for 2,546,500 USD:











Salampasu / Basalampasu / Mpasu / Salampasou /Asalampasa / Asalampasu / Salampansu / Salampanso / Salampassu people from a small region in Kasai, on the border of Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

Mukinka face mask

bought on an auction of traditional African art objects in Antwerp, Belgium

available !

Typical characteristics are

decorated with small copper strips in rows on the face; the balls represent hair; good profile shape

This type of mask was danced at circumcision and initiation ceremonies. The masks evoked spirits that were called upon for aid. The initiation ritual was performed in a space decorated with carved wooden panels adorned with figurines and masks. Some of the masks are painted black, red or white; others are covered with small copper strips in rows or with larger copper sheets more or less randomly covering the face. Copper was a precious material produced by the neighboring tribes and was bought by the Salampasu to integrate it on their mukinka masks. Earning the right to wear such a mask involved performing specific deeds.
Excellent examples are present in the Africa Museum in Tervuren, Belgium.
More recently, masks in this style are made for sale to tourists.
The Lwalu = Lwalwa are a neighbouring tribe that make masks with some similar characteristics.

Lwalu and Salampasu masks have some common charactericstics. Some are covered with copper.

Similar masks have been published, for instance in

"Peuple guerrier de soixante mille individus, les Salampasu vivent a l’est du fleuve Kasai et ont pour voisins a l’ouest et au sud les Tschokwé et les Lunda, et a l’est et an nord, les Lwalwa et les Kete. Dépourvus d’organisation politique centralisée, certains chefs exercèrent toutefois on pouvoir considérable et créèrent de véritables armées capables de résister aux attaques des Tschokwé et des Lunda. Les occupations privilégiées des hommes étaient la guerre et la chasse. Malgré la présence de missionnaires, les Salampasu n’ont guère été étudiés. Les masques et les figures sont fabriqués dans le cadre de l’initiation. Présentés aux futurs initiés dans un ordre progressif, ils symbolisent les trois grades de la société: les chasseurs, les guerriers et le chef (cf. J.-L. Paudrat). Certains masques provoquent une telle peur que les femmes et les enfants fuient hors du village lorsqu’ils entendent prononcer son nom par crainte de mourir sur le champ (Henderson, 1940). Le costume compose de peaux de bêtes, de plumes, de fibres est aussi important que le masque lui-même. Il a été « sacralisé » et l’esprit demeure en lui. L’ensemble masque-costume porte le nom générique d’akish, mais sitôt porte, il devient mucish. Les masques sont de trois types: les masques de fibres noires tressées, surmontés d’une coiffure conique décorée de triangles polychromes; les masques de bois a ample panache de plumes, et enfin les masques recouverts de lames de cuivre que surmonte un ensemble de pompons de fibres végétales. Le front bombé se projette en avant, le nez est large, pyramidal. On ne connait qu’une seule statue de grande qualité. Les Salampasu commerçaient avec les Lunda et les Tschokwé et tout en étant originale, leur production dénote certains éléments empruntés a leurs voisins."
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan,
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
 Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., on p. 458.

"The Salampasu have many types of mask. This human-faced model is characterized by its large domed forehead, sizeable slit eyes, short broad nose with rounded nostril openings, as well as the aggressive open mouth, teeth sharpened and treated with kaolin, and fringe of fiber tresses hanging like a beard from the jaw line and pointed chin. These examples differ according to the polychromy applied to the surface of the wood, passed through red powder.
The costume accompanying this type of mask consists of a fiber net adapted to the body, and a skirt of fiber or animal fur. The wearer holds antelope horns or a two-edged sword. Named mukinka, these wooden masks are the particular prerogative of two associations, who reserve membership to those of certain favored lineages: the ibuku association, who also possess a copper-covered mask, and the idangani association. From the latter group come masks made of fiber, currently designated by the names of husband and wife."
(source = Ethnografica, 2001)

"The Salampasu, who live south of the Lwalwa and the Mbagani and west of the Lulua River, once had a reputation as fierce warriors and headhunters, and continue to be skilled hunters. During the admsission ceremonies into the warrior society, the initiate was painted red and performed a dance called matambu. Masks of three different types, made of different materials but stylistically quite similar, were also used in the initiation of young men (Bogaerts 1950:401-2). Photographs taken by Michel Huet in the Luiza region show fiber, wooden, and copper-covered masks performing together in male initiation rites in which the three types represent the three ranks of male society: the hunters,warriors, and chiefs (Paudrat in Huet 1978:194). Wooden masks covered with thin sheets of beaten copper, as well as knotted fiber masks share a large, bulging forehead which overhangs a short, triangular nose and small, deeply recessed eyes. The mouth is always open, showing needle sharp teeth. The coiffure consists of balls of interwoven strands of stiff fiber."
(source = The Stanley Collection of African Art at The University of Iowa Museum of Art)

"The Salampasu people live in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). They are grouped in a loose confederation of villages headed by chiefs. The Salampasu have a highly stratified society with initiation ceremonies playing vital roles in maintaining the social system. The Salampasu live mostly from hunting, but the women do some farming.
The major reason for mask making among the Salampasu was the Mungongo (Warrior) Society, a male-only organization. Members rose through the ranks of the Mungongo by purchasing a series of masks that were ranked in a hierarchy of importance. Earning the right to acquire and wear a mask involved performing specific deeds (not recorded) plus large payments of livestock, drink, and other material goods to the members of the society. Possessing many masks indicated wealth and knowledge (since a new owner purchased the esoteric knowledge associated with a particular mask).
Three categories of masks were used for the various ceremonies of the Mungongo Society symbolizing the three levels of the society: hunters, warriors, and the chief. Fiber masks with cone-shaped headdresses represented the hunters. Next in importance came the painted wood masks called Kasangu representing the warriors. The Mukinka is the most important since it represented the chief.
The sharp pointed teeth on the mask reflect the custom of filing the teeth that was part of the initiation process for both boys and girls. It was designed to show their strength and discipline."
(source = Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, http://www.umfa.utah.edu/, 2005)

Masks of the Salampasu are used in a hierarchical initiatory context related to the upward mobility of successful hunters and warriors in traditional Salampasu society.
The Salampasu people live in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).
hey are grouped in a loose confederation of villages headed by chiefs.
The Salampasu have a highly stratified society with initiation ceremonies playing vital roles in maintaining the social system.
The Salampasu live mostly from hunting, but the women do some farming.
The major reason for mask making among the Salampasu was the mungongo (Warrior) Society, a male-only organization.
Members rose through the ranks of the mungongo by purchasing a series of masks that were ranked in a hierarchy of importance.
Earning the right to acquire and wear a mask involved performing specific deeds (not recorded) plus large payments of livestock, drink, and other material goods to the members of the society.
Possessing many masks indicated wealth and knowledge (since a new owner purchased the esoteric knowledge associated with a particular mask).
Three categories of masks were used for the various ceremonies of the mungongo Society symbolizing the three levels of the society: hunters, warriors, and the chief.
Fiber masks with cone-shaped headdresses represented the hunters. Next in importance came the wood masks called kasangu representing the warriors. The mukinka is the most important since it represented the chief. The sharp pointed teeth on the mask reflect the custom of filing the teeth that was part of the initiation process for both boys and girls. It was designed to show their strength and discipline.
(source = artheos.fra@artheos.org )









Similar mask:


Dance Mask Salampasu, Democratic Republic of Congo, Early 20th C. PROVENANCE: Acquired by Evelyn Annenberg Jaffe Hall from Aaron Furman gallery, New York, 6/26/67, then by descent to present owner. Artistic expression and performance are utilized in many African societies as a way to impart cultural ideals to members of the community. Masks are often used to represent specific traits valued within a society. This Dance Mask from the Salampasu of the Dem. Rep. of Congo is one of three different types of masks used during initiation ceremonies for young men. The mask is made of wood, plated with metal, believed to be a powerful medium. A woven fiber hangs down from the chin of the mask, stylistically representing a beard. The mask's bared teeth and pronounced forehead suggests a feeling of ferocity and aggressiveness. The sunken eyes give off an intensity expected of hunters, warriors, and chiefs, roles which the young men being initiated are expected to become. Height: Mask is 12 in. high. With fiber beard attachment: 18 in. high. IN 9-1-13 / Price On Request
http://www.brucefrankprimitiveart.com/pages/archive/african/african-art-092013-1.html

 








Songye/Songe/Songahay/Basongy/Basonge/Basongye/Bassongo/Basonga/Wasonga/Bayembe people/tribe
from Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

Kifwebe face mask, male type

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available anymore; gone; sold; replaced by a similar piece

"The Songye and Luba peoples live in the southeastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both groups trace their origins to a common mythic ancestor, Kongolo, and they are related linguistically. As with many African groups, the Songye and Luba rely on farming, supplementing their diet with hunting. Since rivers were the sacred homes of spirits and their chiefs were buried in them the Songye did not fish except in times of famine.
Kifwebe masks were made for the Bwadi ya Kifwebe association, a type of policing society that provided a means of controlling social behavior and neutralizing disruptive elements within the group. These masks appeared at the installation and death of a chief, and at the initiation rites of young men as well as a whole range of occasions that included punishments, warfare and public works. There is great variety and symbolism within the various Kifwebe masks. More than thirty different mask names have been recorded. Several have animal names while other masks have names of illnesses like leprosy or names denoting natural phenomena. For the most part Kifwebe masks no longer function to maintain social control among the Songye except in the southeastern regions bordering on Luba territory.
A male Kifwebe mask can be identified by its large comb or crest. The size and height of the crest, in comparison to other masks danced in the same performance, indicates seniority or higher rank and the relative spiritual power of the dancer. Junior masks have smaller crests as an indication of their lesser degree of social power. The features of male masks -- strong, protruding eyes, nose, mouth and crest -- all extend from the plane of the face. This extension of facial forms into space expresses male aggression. The use of vivid coloring is also more typical of male masks. Female masks are more curvilinear and the facial features are usually contained in an oval form.
The male Kifwebe represent socially approved agents bent on social intimidation of wrongdoers. They run through the village flailing their sticks. Female Kifwebe masks, through their quiet dance performances, animate the benevolent spiritual forces." 
(source = http://www.umfa.utah.edu/ )

"During the 16th century, the Songye migrated from the Shaba area, which is now the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their history is closely linked to the Luba's, to whom the Songye are related through common ancestors. Having waged war against one another for a long time, the Songye and Luba later formed an alliance to fight the Arabs. They settled on the left bank of the Lualaba River, on a savanna and forest- covered plateau. Divided into many subgroups, the 150,000 Songye people are governed by a central chief assisted by innumerable secret societies.
The Songye traditionally relied mostly on farming and hunting for subsistence. Because the rivers were associated with the spirits of deceased chiefs who were often buried in them, fishing was not practiced except in times of great need. The artistic wares of the Songye, including pottery made by women and weaving and metalworking done by men, were traded extensively with their neighbors.
The Songye created a sculptural style of intense dynamism and vitality. The works of Songye craftsmen are often used within the secret societies during various ceremonies. They produced a large number of figures belonging to the fetishist, who manipulates them during the rituals of the full moon. Songye fetish figures vary in size from 4” to 60”. They are usually male and stand on a circular base. Strips of metal, nails or other paraphernalia are sometimes applied over the face, which counteract evil spirits and aggressors and channel lightings against them. The top of the head and the abdomen are usually hollowed to allow insertion of fetish material, called boanga. These figures adopt a hieratic posture, the hands placed on a pointed abdomen; on top of the head they have a horn or feathers reinforcing a disquieting appearance. The fetishist would make the boanga with magic ingredients, which he crumbled and mixed, thus obtaining a paste that was kept in an antelope horn hung from the roof of the house. The magic ingredients consist of a wide variety of animal, vegetal, mineral and human substances that activate and bring into play benevolent ancestral spirits. The face is often covered with nails, a reminder of smallpox. The style of Songye fetishes, carved from wood or horn and decorated with shells, is not as realistic as the classic Luba style, and their integration of non-naturalistic, more geometric forms is impressive. The figures are used to ensure their success, fertility, and wealth and to protect people against hostile forces as lightning, as well as against diseases such as smallpox, very common in that region. While smaller figures of this type were kept and consulted by individuals, larger ones were responsible for ensuring the welfare of an entire community.
In the Songye language, a mask is a kifwebe: this term has been given to masks representing spirits and characterized by striations. Depending on the region, it may be dark with white strips, or the reverse. The kifwebe masks embodied supernatural forces. The kifwebe society used them to ward off disaster or any threat. The masks, supplemented by a woven costume and a long beard of raffia bast, dance at various ceremonies. They are worn by men who act as police at the behest of a ruler, or to intimidate the enemy. It can be either masculine, if carved with a central crest, or feminine if displaying a plain coiffure. The size of the crest determines the magic power of the mask. Mask, colors, and costume all have symbolic meaning. The dancer who wears the male mask will display aggressive and uncontrolled behavior with the aim of encouraging social conformity, whereas the dancer who wears the female mask display more gentle and controlled movements and is assumed to be associated with reproduction ceremonies. The use of white on the mask symbolizes positive concepts such as purity and peace, the moon and light. Red is associated with blood and fire, courage and fortitude, but also with danger and evil. Female masks essentially reflect positive forces and appear principally in dances held at night, such as during lunar ceremonies and at the investiture or death of a ruler. The mask had also the capacity to heal by means of the supernatural force it was supposed to incorporate. The ritual of exorcism consisted of holding the sick man’s mask while a magician acted as if he were casting it into the fire. Kifwebe mask representations also appear on other objects belonging to the kifwebe society – grooved shields, for example, are adorned with a central mask. Buffalo masks with a brown patina that have no stripes were used in hunting rituals.
The Songye also produce prestige stools, ceremonial axes, made of iron and copper and decorated with interlaced patterns, neckrests, bracelets and copper adzes."
(source: www.zyama.com)

"Les Songye occupent un territoire situé entre le Kassai, le Shaba et le Kivu et sont apparentés aux Luba, bien qu'ils ne se soient jamais constitués de grands royaumes unis comme leurs voisins les Luba. Les Songye ont des chefs qui subissent un rite d'investiture et doivent respecter une série d'interdits qui leur confèrent un statut homologue à celui d'un roi sacré.
Ce type de masque fait partie de la societé Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe qui fonctionne comme un organe de contrôle en aidant les autorités à maintenir leur pouvoir économique et politique. Le visage de ces masques comportent des stries parallèles inspirées du pelage de certains animaux tels que l'antilope Bongo auxquels les Songye attachent une très grande importance mythologique.
La crête surmontant le crâne du masque marque la différence entre le masque masculin et le masque féminin. De plus, cette crête a une signification hiérarchique: plus le potentiel magique et la puissance mystique du personnage masqué sont importants, plus la crête sera grande.
Ces masques apparaissent au cours de rituels mensuels liés à la lune, aux funerailles et aux fêtes de dation du nom."
(source = Objets, Signes d'Afrique-L. de Heusch-Snoeck Ducaju and Zoon/Arts de l'Afrique Noire-Nathan, 1988)

"...Les masques songye "kifwebe" restent très mystérieux quant à leur emploi. Fabriqués en brousse, loin des regards, ils sont consacrés au cours d'une cérémonie secrète où l'esprit doit prendre possession des nouveaux masques. Ils sont réservés à des notables ayant subi une initiation."
(source = "Afrique Noire" de Laure Meyer, 1991, éditions Terrail)

 

In the Songye tribe, the bwadi bwa Kifwebe society was clouded in secrecy. The members had political, economic, and mystical power, as revealed through the masks. The wooden masks are known as Kifwebe (singular), which means "mask" in the Songye language. Patterned over the entire face are geometric grooves, painted with colours such as white, black and red. The costume for the mask is/was a mass of raffia fibers attached to the chin of the mask. The Songye are neighbors of the Luba, with cultural and linguistic relations. They have created powerful and aggressive objects such as masks and statues.
Female masks were primarily white, restrained and elegant with striated surfaces. Their function was to awaken and honor benevolent spirits. Whiteness is often associated with health, purity, reproduction and peace.
Male masks are known for their distinctive, exaggerated, frightening and aggressive form with bulging eyes, a projecting mouth and a powerful, high, large crest or comb that extends over the middle of the forehead in the nose area. The form symbolized the level of power or grade of the masked figure; masks of elders embody the greatest potential and strength. The masks were used for social control, political action, or the solicitation of contributions and protection. They were probably danced at initiations, circumcisions, funerals and visits.
The male masks exhibit more variation and innovations of form than the female masks.

More details can be read for instance in
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa, Thames & Hudson, 1998; ISBN: 0500018707.

Many similar masks have been published. A very good example is printed in the chapter by Constantin Petridis, Les arts du bassin du Congo, in
Arts d' Afrique, sous la direction de Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau, Musee Dapper, Gallimard; 2000.

"The Kifwebe mask is known for its wooden striations covering the face. These types of masks are used by the ruling elite to exhibit economic and political control by evoking supernatural forces. The masks are a direct link from the spirit world to the society. They are a physical representation with which the members of the society interact.
The physical attributes of the masks emphasize their supernatural connections: The nose, mouth, and eyes are highly abstracted. Patterned over the entire face are geometric grooves which remove the face even further from the usual human realm.
There are several differences between male and female Kifwebe masks. Generally female masks are white, or of lighter wood color, while the male masks have a red pigment. Symbolically whiteness is associated with health, purity, reproduction and peace. Male masks also have a large comb form which extends over the middle of the forehead in the nose area. Female Kifwebe masks have changed little in form and color over time, relating possibly to female ideal qualities of constancy and continuity. On the other hand, male masks exhibit more variation and innovations of form.
The costume for the Kifwebe mask is a mass of rafia fibers attached to the chin of the mask."
(source = Women's Roles in Society, http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~bcr/studentwork/matricardi/  cited 2002)

"Like their fellow Bantu speakers, the Chokwe, the prime generators of art among the Songye are the initiation rites that mark the passage of boys from adolescence to manhood. Masks, figures and costumes, along with spectacular theatrical effects are part of these initiations, that often function as a didactic technique to instruct the boys in their culture and in proper manly behavior.
Songye masks are expressive, strongly geometric (almost cubist in form), with bright polychrome decoration accentuating the lines of the carving. Among the best known of Luba anthropomorphic masks are the Kifwebe, that belong to associations of Luba-Hemba dancers. As members of the larger Luba group, the Songye also use Kifwebe masks. The Kifwebe mask is made for the Bwadi ya (or ka) Kifwebe association; a type of policing society which provided a means of controlling social behavior and neutralizing disruptive elements within the group. The Kifwebe mask embodies supernatural forces. The members of the the Bwadi ya Kifwebe Society use it to ward off disasters or any threat. It also had the capacity to heal through its supernatural power. Substances rubbed on the masks were believed to activate forces that would transform the wearer into something that was neither human nor spirit.
These masks appeared at the installation and death of chiefs, at the initiation rites of young men, when they represent the spirits of the ancestors, and at other initiation rites of the association as well at a whole range of occasions including punishments, warfare and public works. After 1905 they were also used at receptions for dignitaries. There is great variety and symbolic meanings of Kifwebe masks; more than thirty different mask names have been recorded. Several have animal names while other masks have names of illnesses like leprosy or names denoting natural phenomena like the rainbow ("nkongolo")."
(source = Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah, http://www.umfa.utah.edu/, 2002)

"Kifwebe masks are the most popular masks created by the Songye tribe and are worn in connection with the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe secret society. Kifwebe means 'mask' in the Songye language. The size of the crest determines the magical power of the mask. During initiation, circumcision or funeral ceremonies, a dancer will wear the mask and his body will be covered with straw. The dancer who wears the male mask will display aggressive and uncontrolled behavior with the aim of encouraging social conformity, whereas the dancer who wears the female mask displays more gentle and controlled movements and is assumed to be associated with reproduction ceremonies."
(source = Ethnix Tribal and African Art Gallery, WWW site, cited 2003)

"KIFWEBE MASKS
According to the specialists, Anthropologists and Art Historians, Kifwebe masks (sing.) or Bifwebe (plur.) are differentiated by gender and by their shape and size but also by the basic surface coloration and the decorative design and patterns on the surface. The masks said to represent a female are rarer than masks supposed to depict a male. In the field I have never seen more than one female mask at a time, yet groups of male masks are commonly encountered. Normally a band of mask-wearers is made up of one female mask and a number of male masks. All of the wearers, of course, are male. Most Songye female masks have a grooved surface that is painted over with white kaolin (pembe or ntoshi), and when the mask is worn repeatedly, this white partially wears off, exposing the natural wood. This exposure heightens the white/brown contrast and reveals the engraved striations. But when a mask is stored in a smoky environment the white surface darkens considerably. A black (tar, or composite resinous material) vertical stripe running from the top of the head, over the nose, and widening at the chin, divides the face in two. The eyes are lidded in black, and dark-red resin or red natural pigment (nkula) (sometimes European paint nowadays) will usually highlight the mouth and sometimes the eyes. When the surface paint has worn of or is soiled the masks are repainted.
Female masks will have no sagittal crest or perhaps a slightly raised flat one. Female masks exude beauty, tranquility and inner peace. They are not aggressive, either in their appearance or in their behavior.
Male masks, on the other hand, are aggressive in their general appearance as well as in their comportment during their performances and village visits.
There are at least two kinds of masks said to represent males, it is believed they represent the senior and the junior. The senior is usually larger in size, with a big sagittal crest which can be a separate formal entity, or a continuation of the forehead protruding above the forehead. The crest and the conical protrusion are supposed to contain the magical strength of the mask, hence the bigger the crest the more powerful the mask.
It is said that male masks (or their wearers) are involved in witchcraft, sorcery, spell-casting and dispersion of diseases and epidemics. The junior mask is smaller in size and will have a smaller crest but has the same contrasting coloration as the senior mask, mainly black, white, and dark red. Obviously symbols are attached to this use of colors, but since informants (and scholars) don't agree on the symbolic meaning of each of these basic colors. I will refrain from citing them or expressing a personal opinion.
Kifwebe are made out of wood and come in many shapes and sizes, depending on the area where they were made or their function. Basically, the masks made to be worn come in male, female, or youngster versions, the females usually are white and have no crest, the males are polychrome and will have a crest. When masks are worn they are part of a complete costume consisting of a hood attached to the mask, a shirt and pants made from woven bark. The soles of his shoes will be elephant skin and a striped fur belt completes the costume. The top of the mask will have attached to the hood a plummet and a fibre beard will circle the masks face. The mask-wearer will carry in his hands items allowing to further identify the portrayed character such as a staff, knife, stick or twigs. Other masks are made to be hung in meeting houses; these are sometimes affixed to a plaque. The main function of worn masks is to control social order. Other masks serve to protect and identify a person or place with the Kifwebe association. Another type of masks, made in a variety of materials such as leaves, feathers, woven fibers or bark, are used in an initiatic context. The icon of the masking association (kifwebe) will also appear in miniatures worn as charms, as well as on knives or shields.
THE MANY MEANINGS OF KIFWEBE MASKS
When one asks Songye men what a Kifwebe mask represents, the answers will vary greatly, but the gist will be that the mask basically depicts supernatural beings, such as ancestor spirits (katotoshi) visiting their descendants: a beautiful fertile woman on one hand and a strong virile man on the other hand. Many, however, will describe a spirit/creature incorporating a variety of animals, or a composite being consisting of mixed human and animal elements. According to the literature, all the masks we have discussed, are said to represent either a male, when they have a big sagittal crest; or a female, when they have no crest or a very small flattened one). Masks that are smaller in size (but not miniatures) or have a small sagittal crest are said to represent a junior. (I have seen masks described as being the "youngster" only among the eastern Songye; in the center there was only the male/female differentiation to be noticed, whereas in the west even genderization becomes hazardous).
Female masks are predominantly white with a few touches of black (eyelids, nose, sagital line, chin) and red (mouth, eyes), whereas in male masks the dominant color is red, with black and white highlights. According to some of my initiated Songye friends, white is perceived as a peaceful color associated with purity and the spirits, red is considered a more active color often associated with blood and vital power, and black is linked with secrecy and witchcraft.
Even though some scholars maintain that kifwebe masks were only invented at the beginning of the 20th century, this assertion is most probably wrong since these masks had already been noticed and collected in the last quarter of the 19th century by early travellers. Furthermore, it is impossible to believe that such a powerful "gestalt" as the kifwebe mask could have developed so fast and become so wide spread in such a short time span. On the contrary, I am convinced that kifwebe in its various forms and guises is a very old idea, and that even though there have been changes and transformations to its shape in the last 100 years, one finds throughout the basic idea of a striated, exophtalmic, anthropo-zoomorphic face with a jutting mouth. Today, masks are still found dancing in Songyeland, especially in the eastern part. They can be used in altered forms or context (secular) and therefore no longer inspire the fear and awe they once did. Obviously, in the past, masks played a crucial role in Songye society as they bound men together in strong and powerful brotherhoods or associations, the role of which was to initiate, to control social order and to serve as a counterforce to the chieftains and noble castes.
Animals are also represented, albeit in a symbolic way, in the "classical" Kifwebe masks, according to many informants. Stripes are associated with a variety of capridae (antelope etc.), zebra and okapi. Other animal representations cited include the crocodile (chin), chameleon (eyes), monkey (eyes), ape (sagittal crest), rooster (crest), owl (feathered horn), buffalo (some large curved stripes on cheeks), anteater or aardvark (mouth), pangolin (tiered surface). The small crest of the "youth" mask, I was told, depicts the sagittal crest found on the skull of male apes, whereas the big crest represents the one found on the head of roosters and other crested birds. But some informants told me that the concentric circles and striations on the face of the mask in fact refer to the actual faces of people who in the past had their faces scarified with concentric circles; why not?
Some authors have tried to decode Kifwebe masks much further, assigning one or more symbolic meanings to each of its parts. Since I have not confirmed this information in the field, I will not repeat it or offer my own speculation, since symbolism is not my forte. It is possible that over the years the esoteric meaning and iconic content of Kifwebe masks have become more complex or changed so as to adapt to new ideas (due to colonial interference a lot of esoteric knowledge was lost). At first the masks probably depicted only forest animals or their spirits. But when the Songye left their forest habitat and lifestyle to live in the savanna, they settled down and created semi¬permanent villages, with specific burial places. At this point an ancestor cult was probably introduced. In order to honor important forebears and invoke their help in solving the problems of the living, the imagery of male and female human spirits was then incorporated into the mask's iconography. Or else the idea of representing humans in their masks was borrowed from neighbors who used the human icon in their typology.
FUNCTION OF KIFWEBE MASKS
Among the Songye, Kifwebe masks are used for a variety of occasions. I have seen groups of mask-wearers going from compound to compound to collect donations for their association, and once I witnessed a group of masks performing at dusk to honor a deceased member of the Kifwebe association. I also had a furtive glimpse, before being chased away, of a female mask and a few male masks gathered in a house of an abandoned compound. On another occasion a masked dance was staged to welcome me (and my gifts) to the village. Except for these instances I have no firsthand observations of the masks in use, but I have seen, and collected, many masks at rest in the field. I asked many questions, but these were answered with reluctance and not very precisely. The answers varied greatly depending on whether I asked "average" villagers or men I suspected to be members of the Kifwebe association. Yet we can conclude that masks are used in many circumstances, and I will list here the various contexts in which the Songye could use their Kifwebe masks. (These same circumstances apply to similar masks in neighboring areas of the southern savanna, including the Luba Batembo, Luba Hemba, Luba Shanka-di or Luba Katanga and Luba Upemba, Zela, Kunda, Kaonde, Kanyok, Kalundwe, Bwile, Tabwa, Lunda.) We shall meet these neighbors' interpretations of their masks in a later section.
- During initiation procedures worn by the leader of the initiation, by initiators, (by initiates, by initiated?), by circumcisers, by the guardians of the circumcision camp.
- To celebrate seasonal events such as new moon, seeding of crops, first harvesting, first rain.
- To enforce social control policing, levying of taxes and fines, rendering of justice, execution.
- To educate and instruct mask-wearers in stage plays depicting the social do's and don'ts.
- To act as a mnemonic and moralistic device when maskers re-enact mythical or historical events from the past, or stage moralistic folktales based on animal and human characters.
- To honor the deceased at funerary ceremonies, maskers accompany and honor important members of society either at funerals or funeral commemorations.
- To sanctify nominations of titleholders, ritual specialist and enthronement of chiefs.
- To supervise communal duties such as ditch-cleaning, fortification, road and bridge building.
- During gathering of associations worn during meeting of members of brotherhoods, associations and societies.
- To solve crisis or conflict worn by a medium between the living and higher powers or spirits, to gain assistance in solving temporary crises such as war, strife, enmity, calamities and epidemics.
- During hunting worn before or after the hunt, to conduct or supervise a communal hunt.
- During warfare to encourage and bless warriors, worn to bring good luck to a war campaign or lead warriors, used in emblem form carved on shields.
- Purification to cleanse polluted people or areas.
- Healing to assist in the mental or physical healing process.
- Entertainment to entertain the community on the occasion of a public festival or festive occasion.
- Honoring to honor visitors or specific members of the community.
- Witchcraft: some maskers are said to be sorcerers and masks to contain magical powers.
- To dispense fertility and wealth Female masks are said to enhance fertility of humans, animals, and the earth; male masks would bring power and wealth."
(source = "Beauty and the Beasts - Kifwebe and animal masks of the Songye, Luba and related peoples." MARC LEO FELIX)

 

In the Songye language, a mask is a kifwebe: this term has been given to masks representing spirits and characterized by striations. Depending on the region, it may be dark with white strips, or the reverse. The kifwebe masks embodied supernatural forces. The kifwebe society used them to ward off disaster or any threat. The masks, supplemented by a woven costume and a long beard of raffia, dance at various ceremonies. They are worn by men who act as police at the behest of a ruler, or to intimidate the enemy. It can be either masculine, if carved with a central crest, or feminine if displaying a plain coiffure. The size of the crest determines the magic power of the mask. Mask, colors, and costume all have symbolic meaning. The dancer who wears the male mask will display aggressive and uncontrolled behavior with the aim of encouraging social conformity, whereas the dancer who wears the female mask display more gentle and controlled movements and is assumed to be associated with reproduction ceremonies. The use of white on the mask symbolizes positive concepts such as purity and peace, the moon and light. Red is associated with blood and fire, courage and fortitude, but also with danger and evil. Female masks essentially reflect positive forces and appear principally in dances held at night, such as during lunar ceremonies and at the investiture or death of a ruler. The mask had also the capacity to heal by means of the supernatural force it was supposed to incorporate. The ritual of exorcism consisted of holding the sick man’s mask while a magician acted as if he were casting it into the fire. Kifwebe mask representations also appear on other objects belonging to the kifwebe society – grooved shields, for example, are adorned with a central mask. Buffalo masks with a brown patina that have no stripes were used in hunting rituals.
The Songye also produce prestige stools, ceremonial axes, made of iron and copper and decorated with interlaced patterns, neckrests, bracelets and copper adzes.

 

Kifwebe mask is the most famous of the Songye masks, made for the Bwadi Bwa Kifwebe Secret society. "Kifwebe" means "Mask" in the Songye language. The face generally is covered with linear incisions which are sometimes pigmented, the mouth is most often square and protruding.
The size of the crest determines the magical power of the mask.
According to Dunja Hersak, SONGYE MASKS AND FIGURE SCULPTURE (1985: 168): 'The striated masks, or kifwebe, are used as agents of a tradition and figures of authority to exercise social and political control through practices of evil magic and witchcraft by the members of the bwadi bwa kifwebe society. Among the societies' public performances, three mask types exist: two grades of male and one female mask. Male masks are distinguished by a striated pattern of three colors while the female one is predominantly white with the features accented in black and some red... The Kifwebe tradition which exists also among the Luba, seems to have originated south of the eastern chiefdom in an area of Luba/Songe admixture. The Songe confirm this provenance by the interpretation that the kifwebe striations relate (apart from the zebra) to a pugnacious species of striped bushbuck antelope which inhabited the area.
cited in 2011

The kifwebe society was a judicial and regulatory association whose main task was to identify sorcerers, witches, evildoers and those who broke the ethical codes of the clan. Punishment would come in the course of a village dance, or in a midnight visit; kifwebe members, shouting accusations in raucous voices, wearing shaggy costumes and the fierce masks of the society, would attack the offender. The sentence might be a public humiliation or a beating, even perhaps death.
http://www.masksoftheworld.com/Africa/African%20Songye%20Mask%205.htm cited in 2011

Masks made by Songye artists represent either male or female beings. In female masks, such as this one, white clay predominates, and the form of the head crest is rounded. Male masks, in contrast, are decorated with red, black, and white pigments and have a ridge along the crest. In both mask types, angular and thrusting forms project the mouth, nose, and forehead far beyond the facial plane.
Patterns of geometric grooves are unique to these masks. The striations on this example are particularly noteworthy; the artist has used them to balance, and emphasize, the elegant curvature of each of the basic forms in this highly abstracted face.
http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/169088/Female_Kifwebe_Mask/image/10504/image cited in 2011

Vrouwelijke maskers stralen schoonheid. rust en innerlijke vrede uit. Ze zijn niet agressief noch in hun uiterlijk noch in hun gedrag. De mannelijke variant heeft een duidelijke kam. Vrouwelijke maskers staan in directe relatie met de fysieke wereld en de voortplanting. Ze bewegen rustig hun taak is zich te beroepen op welwillende geesten die de toekomstige generatie op positieve wijze moet beïnvloeden. Vrouwelijke maskers worden geassocieerd met de maan en worden gedragen bij maanrituelen en tijdens begrafenissen en initiatieriten.
De 150.000 Songye vestigden zich in het zuid-oosten van het land en zijn verdeeld in tal van sub-groepen. De Songye worden geregeerd door een centrale chief wiens rol eist dat hij gehoorzaamt aan speciale beperkende wetten zoals niet zichtbaar verdriet en niet drinken in het openbaar. De Songye hebben een sterke interesse in magie. die vele aspecten van hun leven beïnvloedt. De geschiedenis van de Songye is nauw verbonden met de Luba's. aan wie zij verwant zijn via gemeenschappelijke voorouders. De Songye houtbewerkers blinken uit in de productie van fetisjen en expressionistische maskers. De fetisjen zijn bedoeld om het kwaad en om de stam of de familie van vijandige machten. tovenaars of boze geesten weg te houden en om de vruchtbaarheid te bevorderen.
cited in 2011

The term "kifwebe" simply means "mask" to the Songye although it has long been used to refer exclusively to this type of mask by collectors, dealers and academics. The cult which uses such masks would appear to have started in the late 19th century. The earliest example to have entered a European collection was the mask given by Livin Vandevelde to her sister Madame Stroobant in 1885 (see Herreman, F. and Petrides, C. (ed.), Face of the Spirits. Masks from the Zaire Basin, Ghent, 1993, no.68. and p.252). The Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich acquired their first mask with the striations associated with kifwebe in 1905 and Tervuren in 1910. Frobenius was the first to record the name "kifebbe" in his field notes of 1905/6 and in 1914 Tervuren acquired photographs of dancers wearing the familiar white oblong masks which were recorded as coming from the Eastern Songye region. As to their use and function early reports and subsequent field research have led Dunja Hersak to conclude that the kifwebe mask was "a powerful social instrument probably associated with healing and ritualized forms of mystical and transformational control" (op.cit., p.148). By the time Dunja Hersak and others did their fieldwork in the early 1970s the mask and its function had undergone substantial changes in form, context and meaning.
http://www.christies.com cited in 2011

Some books about Songye art:

François Neyt
Songye
Fonds Mercator
400 pages
400 illustrations en couleurs
100 EURO

François Neyt
Redoutable statuaire Songye d'Afrique centrale
Langue : Français
Éditeur : Cinq Continents; Collection : Arts Premiers
2004
Broché ISBN : 8874391315
Euro 95

Hughes Dubois (Photographies)
Le Sensible & la Force de Songye
Éditeur : Africa
2004
87 pages
Format : Broché
ISBN : 9075894600
This book shows photos of Songye statues.









 

Songye or Luba people, South-East Congo

Kifwebe mask, female

37 cm high
Provenance: Dealer in Belgium; private collection in Warschau, Poland
Includes the stand, metal painted black, tailor made.

Available for 690 Euro









 

Southern Yaka or Holo or neighbouring Suku / Basuku / Suko people/tribe
from south Congo / DRC / formerly Zaire

helmet mask / masque heaume / helmmasker (Hemba/Hembe/Nembe)

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

NOT available

The Suku are also named Southern Yaka.

Typical for these masks is

The piece shown here carries traces of red and white pigments.

A similar mask belongs to Musée Dapper, Paris, France, as shown on p. 159 of the book
Masques
Paris : Musée Dapper, 1995.

"Worn during male initiation ceremonies, these mask represented all departed ancestors. Mourning songs were sung during the ritual; the vertical lines on the face are tears. Neighbors of the Yaka, Suku masks are more conservative in their facial treatments. Although styles vary, there is usually a massive collar of raffia and often a figure or animal on the top of the mask."
(source = Hamill Gallery WWW site, 2002)

"The Suku, also known as the Basuku, are located in southwestern Congo (Zaire) and northwestern Angola, Africa. Their population is around 80,000 people. They speak Bantu, one of the Niger-Congo languages. Tribes that neighbor them are the Yaka, Teke, Nkanu.
Various wooden sculptures are the types of arts that come from the Suku. The wooden sculptures represent religion, magical figures, masks for ceremonies, to everyday items such as cups or combs. Carved masks are commonly used by the initiation societies for ceremonies such as a circumcision ritual. The circumcision ritual represents a boys transition into adult status that takes several months in bush camps to perform.
This type of mask is worn during important parts of the instruction and at the coming-out festivities. When the young men return to their village, they dance wearing the mask, showing their dancing skills and affirming their new status. They are now incorporated into their fathers' group."
(source = WWW)

"À propos des Yaka et des Suku:
Les régions des peuples Yaka et Suku se situent à la frontière entre la République Démocratique du Congo (ex Zaïre) et l’Angola (voir la carte dans l’album photos).
Les Suku peu nombreux (80000 à 100000 individus) peuplent deux petites régions alors que la région Yaka (350000 à 400000 individus) s’étend sur les plateaux dominant les vallées fluviales très encaissées qui caractérisent toute cette partie située entre le fleuve Congo et la rivière Kwilu. Si les langues des Yaka et des Suku sont différentes, ils ont une culture très proche car les populations sont vraiment en contact les unes des autres. Ils possèdent les mêmes institutions, la même typologie d’objets et partagent le même environnement. Historiquement ces deux peuples sont liés depuis le XVII ème siècle avec le souvenir vivace d’appartenance à une même terre d’origine. Ils se sont en effet déplacés depuis le pays Lunda et ont migré vers le Nord afin de fuir une soumission aux Lunda. Leur société est très structurée avec, pour la famille, une segmentation en lignage dont le chef exerce une réelle autorité (jusqu’au droit de vie et de mort). Leur organisation politique est aussi pyramidale du village au chef de plusieurs villages, au chef de région jusqu’au chef suprême (le Kyambko chez les Yaka et le Menikongo chez les Suku) auquel on doit tribut. De par la proximité de ces peuples et de leur culture, il sera intéressant d’examiner des statuettes de divination et plus encore les masques liés aux sociétés d’initiation (semblables dans leurs pratiques): le Nkhanda chez les Yaka et le Mukanda chez les Suku."
(source = http://detoursdesmondes.typepad.com/ 2005)

A photo of a very similar mask from a private collection is published in the chapter by Viviane Baeke, on p. 61 in the book
Initiés, bassin du Congo
by Christiane Falgayrettes-Leveau, Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, Viviane Baeke, Julien Volper, Anne van Cutsem-Vanderstraete et Michael Houseman
Paris
Dapper
2013
ISBN : 978-2-915258-36-3
On p. 57 we can read:
"...Proches voisins de ces Suku, les Yaka de Panzi produisaient des masques-heaumes de même style (p. 61), une particularitéqui les distingue totalement des auters groupes yaka."

 

 







 

Pende/Bapende from the Eastern region

Small face mask with horns

mask with horns and triangular face, named probably minyangi=munyangi=mbuya jia mukanda

bought from a Belgian collection
NOT available
http://archive.yale-gvr-aaa.org  Yale African art archive number 0120684

 









 

face mask with horns

   
bought from a Belgian collection
NOT available

mask with horns and triangular face, probably named the totem dance mask minyangi = munyangi= mbuya jia mukanda










A black and white photo of a similar mask is shown in the book
WERNER SCHMALENBACH
AFRICAN ART
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY · NEW YORK; HOLBEIN-VERLAG · BASEL
First published in the English language in 1954
Translation from: 'Die Kunst Afrikas'.
167 pp.
131 b/w illus., 16 colour plates, 1 map, biblio.
Cloth









 

A colour photo of the same mask is shown as Plate 37 in the book
Denis Duerden
African Art: An Introduction
London
Hamlyn
1974
Pages: 96
hard cover with jacket
ISBN: 0600348539
Dennis Duerden 1927-2006







 

"C’est un masque animalier qui incarne les qualités à inculquer aux jeunes gens au moment de leur initiation." according to Luc lefevre http://lulef.free.fr/Masques/#masque%20Pende%20mbuya%20jia%20mukanda%20%283%29.jpg 

This kind of masks belong to the category of dance  masks known as minyangi among the Eastern Pende and they perform during the ceremonies of initiation and circumcision. They celebrate new initiates and  demonstrate moral strength and physical endurance acquire by new initiates during their initiation.
Though the Pende are divided into two geographically distinct groups, with considerable artistic differences, they still consider themselves one people and are both well-known for their initiation and circumcision masks. Their proximity to Angola and the cultures of the old Lunda Empire, like the Chokwe, make their masks and prestige objects among the most diverse and beautiful in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
http://www.africadirect.com/productsdesc.php?ID=6052

The Pende Kasai people live between the Kasai and Kwilu rivers, in the Congo. The Minyangi animal mask is possibly of the type used during the initiation of the young men, to keep women and children at a safe distance from the initiation camp. Pende Kasai masks are made of light wood, and extensive use is made of black and white triangles, and red colouring. Many masks represent the heads of animals which are believed to have great power, which protects the wearer from evil, and enables him to dance like the animal.
http://www.design-africa.com/pattsBGs/PattDetails/Pende-02.html










from Lempertz auction catalog
Tribal Art AFRICA
Cologne-Köln
26 April 2003
64 p.







A similar mask:

http://www.african-art.at/maske1.htm









Masque Munyangi Circoncision - Pende - RDC Zaire
 "Chez les Pende, lorsqu'on crée un masque, ce qui compte avant tout, c'est la chanson. À partir de la création des paroles et de la musique, le futur porteur du masque crée le costume puis, il va voir le sculpteur et lui commande le masque en bois. Enfin il met au point une chorégraphie correspondant au personnage." Avec l'aimable autorisation de Détour des Mondes.

http://www.bruno-mignot.com/galeries/masques-africains/2619-masque-munyangi-circoncision-pende-rdc-zaire.html in 2014









 

Lega=Balega people in east DRC, ex-Zaire

Small masks



lukwakongo masks?

Bought from a collection of traditional African art in Brussels, Belgium.

Available










Bought in 2013 from a collection of traditional African art in Warschau, Poland.

Not available









 

Lega masks Lega masks are used as initiation objects in the Bwami society. Masks into five types according to material, size, and form: lukwakongo, kayam-ba, idimu, muminia, and lukungu (Biebuyck 1973,164). They serve as an important mark of rank, identifying the owners as members of specific Bwami levels (Biebuyck 1986,125-26).
Unlike many masks in other African cultures, the masks of the Lega are not usually worn over the face, they are attached to the body, held in the hand or simply hung on fences during the initiation ceremonies of the Bwami society.
Lit.: Cameron, Elisabeth L., Art of the Lega, Los Angeles 2001


http://www.randafricanart.com/index1.html
 







 

 


Mali, West-Africa

Bamana / Bambara / Bamanya / (Baumana) / (Banbara) (Manding) / (Mandingo) people/tribe

   

The Bambara/Bamana are the largest ethnic group in Mali. They have been well studied in comparison with most other African people. They occupy the central part, an area of savannah. The dry land makes live hard. They live principally from agriculture, with some subsidiary hunting and cattle rearing in the northern part of their territory.

They uphold their ancient tribal customs against Islam and Christianity, although recently the Muslim faith has been spreading among them. Their cosmology is quite complicated. They excelled in three types of sculpture: stylized antelope headdresses, statues, and masks.

"The artistic tradition of the Bamana is rich, filled with pottery, sculptures, beautiful bokolanfini cloth, and wrought iron figures fashioned by blacksmiths. They also have extensive masking traditions, which are used as a form of social control and community education.
The Bamana are members of the Mande culture, a large and powerful group of peoples in western Africa. Kaarta and Segou are Bamana city-states, which were established in the 17th century and continued to have political influence throughout the western Sudan states into the 19th century. At this time religious wars broke out throughout the region, setting Islamized societies against those who preferred to embrace traditional Bamana views. A dichotomy between traditional and Islamic views still exists today in Mali, and one may expect to encounter representations of both cultures existing side by side and quite often in syncretic combinations."

"The 2,500,000 Bambara people, also called Bamana, form the largest ethnic group within Mali and occupy the central part of the country, in an area of savannah. They live principally from agriculture, with some subsidiary cattle rearing in the northern part of their territory. The Bambara people are predominantly animists, although recently the Muslim faith has been spreading among them. The Bambara kingdom was founded in the 17th century and reached its pinnacle between 176o, and 1787 during the reign of N'golo Diarra. N'golo Diarra is credited with conquering the Peul people and in turn claimed the cities of Dienne and Timbuktu. However, during the 19th century, the kingdom began to decline and ultimately fell to the French when they arrived in 1892. For the most part, Bambara society is structured around six male societies, known as the Dyow (sing. Dyo).
The stylistic variations in Bambara art are extreme sculptures, masks and headdresses display either stylized or realistic features, and either weathered or encrusted patinas. Until quite recently, the function of Bambara pieces was shrouded in mystery, but in the last twenty years field studies have revealed that certain types of figures and headdresses were associated with a number of the societies that structure Bambara life. During the 1970s a group of approximately twenty figures, masks and TjiWara headdresses belonging to the so-called 'Segou style' were identified. The style is distinct and recognizable by its typical flat faces, arrow-shaped noses, all-over body triangular scarifications and, on the figures, splayed hands."
(source = Ethnographica WWW site, 2002)

A great exhibition about the Bambara was held in 2001-2002 in the Rietberg Museum, Zürich, Switzerland, and in The Museum of African Art, in SoHo, New York, USA; a book has been published at this occasion:
Jean-Paul Colleyn (Editor), Bamana: the art of existence in Mali, New York : Museum for African Art, 2001, and
Jean-Paul Colleyn (Hrsg.), Bamana Afrikanische Kunst aus Mali, Zürich : Museum Rietberg, 2001.

More about Bamana/Bambara ceremonies and art can be found for instance in the following sources:

 

male Chiwara / Chi Wara / Ciwara / Ci Wara / Tigaware / Tijaware / Tiwara / Ti Wara / Tjiwara / Tji Wara / Tywara / Ty Wara / Tyiwara / Tyi Wara / Antelope headdress

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium in the 1970's

available!

This type of headdress has become a famous icon of African art and is now probably the best known type of Bambara mask. Many pieces of this type have been described and published. They were used in ceremonies related to agriculture. The most noble and sacred activities and tasks for the Bamana/Bambara are those related to agriculture. At the occasion of such a task, a pair/couple of men of the tyi wara association of farmers performed dances with a pair of one male and one female tyi wara headdress in the fields. They danced early in the morning in the field, on the rhythm of the drums, chants and hand clapping of young girls. In this way they honored the mythical farming animal tyi wara, that taught agriculture to the ancestors of the Bambara/Bamana. Competitions were organised for young men and only the winners were allowed to wear the tyi wara headdress for one year, during private or public performances. A long mythical story is associated with the tyi wara.
The tyi wara wooden headdresses are always carved in a plane. Many variations exist. Most pieces rest on a quadrangular base. This is fixed to a small basket that is adjusted on the head of the dancer. Long black fibers hang from the headdress and cover the basket and the face of the dancer; these symbolize falling water as an essential ingredient for farming.

The male type shows a male, mythical, beautiful and powerful antelope
with two long, curved horns that stand for the tall growth of millet,
with a clearly visible tail,
with a penis that symbolizes the rooting of the grain,
with long ears that refer to the cultivators' listening to the songs sung by women who encourage the men while they work in the fields,
with an open, zigzag pattern in the neck that symbolizes the sun's path along the horizon between the two solstices.

The female type shows a female mother antelope with two long straight horns, that carries its small baby antelope on the back.


from Bamana: Art of Existence in Mali Colleyn, Jean-Paul; with contributions by Mary Jo Arnoldi, James T. Brink, Rene A. Bravmann, Jean-Paul Colleyn, David C. Conrad, Kate Ezra, Barbara E. Frank, Salia Malé, Patrick McNaughton. Field photographs by Cathrine De Clippel, Selection of the artworks by Frank Herreman and Lorenz Homberger Published by: Gent : Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon Publication Date: 2001 224 pages ISBN: 905349359X


from Sieber, Roy and Roslyn Adele Walker African Art in the Cycle of Life Washington, Smithsonian Institution 1997

"Africa is the home to a wide variety of animal life in and African artists often incorporate images of animals to express ideas.
The Chi Wara mask is one such example of African art. Chi Wara translates as “animal of tillage.” In Bamana belief, a mythical creature-the primordial Chi Wara-was the first farmer, a wild beast who taught mankind how to cultivate fields. Today, the skills of farming are still critical to sustaining life on the edge of the Sahara Desert.
In this sculpted mask and others of the same type, the mythical creature is represented by combining aspects of different animals. The lower body represents the aardvark, a type of anteater that burrows into the ground with its claws and snout. The way an aardvark scratches at the earth reminds the viewer of planting crops. The head of the sculpture with the tall thin antlers of a roan antelope remind the viewer of growing millet, a grain commonly grown in the region. And, the zigzag patterns stand for the path of the sun between winter and summer solstices also suggesting the way an antelope runs. The Chi Wara is formed into a crest mask, which sits on top of the dancer’s head attached to a basketry cap. The dancer’s body and face are hidden by a costume of grasses and fibers that is a symbol of rain-essential to growing food. Beads, leather, and metal attachments often are added to embellish the masquerade.
Performances with Chi Wara headdresses are done by champion farmers at times of land clearing, plowing, planting, and harvest. The dance is done in a bent over attitude to show “an excellent farmer hoes the ground continually, without straightening up to rest.” The performance is hoped to aid in the farmer’s efforts to make something out of nothing - growing crops from the dry ground.
There is also a Chi Wara society in which elders teach young farmers to preserve the knowledge of agricultural practices. This society prepares boys to become fathers and husbands by focusing on skills needed to be successful farmers to provide for their family and contribute to the community as a whole. In daily life, women help with farming chores as well. In similar fashion, there are male and female versions of the headdress that are danced in pairs. Drummers provide the beat as women sing and call out praises to the ideal farmer."
(source = Art of Mali from the Collections of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, WWW site, 2003)

The WWW site of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, USA, http://www.nmafa.si.edu/pubaccess/index.htm in 2004, learns us the following:
"Few objects are so generally identified with African art as the Bamana "antelope" crest mask. It is actually a complex object, with tremendous variations in style and technique. These differences are usually attributed to the regional styles set forth in 1960 by Robert Goldwater, whose work relied on museum-based research and the 1934-35 field data of F. H. Lem. ...
Despite disparate forms, "antelope" crest masks share the same symbolism. Most African artists use depictions of animals to convey lessons. An appropriate animal is selected according to well-known distinctive physical or behavioral traits. The physical features of different animals are often combined to create mythical creatures whose symbolic powers are greater than ordinary beasts. These crest masks combine the horns of a large antelope; the body of an aardvark with its big ears, short legs and thick tail; and the textured skin and curling ability of the pangolin--all animals who dig up the earth. This makes them fitting representations of Chi Wara, the supernatural being who the Bamana traditionally believed taught people to farm. Earrings, of red fiber or cowrie shell, reinforce the idea that these are not ordinary animals.
Young men once wore male and female pairs of masks in a dance performance that taught, praised and encouraged good farmers. Ceremonies were held in the fields. Today, because of conversion to Islam and modern changes in employment and school attendance, the masquerade has become more a popular entertainment and less a performance associated with a men's initiation society."

Numerous authors have studied and described the tyi wara, for instance:

Dominique Zahan,
Antilopes du soleil: Arts et rites agraires d'Afrique noire.
Vienne : Editions A. Schendl, 1980.

Jean-Paul Colleyn
The power associations: The Ci-wara.
in Jean-Paul Colleyn (Editor), Bamana: the art of existence in Mali, New York : Museum for African Art, 2001, and Jean-Paul Colleyn (Hrsg.), Bamana Afrikanische Kunst aus Mali, Zürich : Museum Rietberg, 2001.


Bamana Chi-wara (antelope) headdress dancers
Near Bamako, Mali
Photograph by Eliot Elisofon, 1971
Image no. E 1 BMB 5 EE 71 (3368)
Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution
 


A pair of Chi Wara dancers on the foro ba (big field) bent over their sunsun canes
Africa, Mali, Bamana Culture (Photo by Dr. Pascal James Imperato, 1970)

a dancing pair, found on the WWW

http://tribart.blogspot.com/ gives the basis for the following information about Chiwara:

The BAMBARA live in MALI on the Bani River and on both sides of the Upper Niger, and are an important MANDE speaking tribe. They number almost a million and are the heirs of two kingdoms, SEGU (1660-1881) and KAARTA (1670-1851). The BAMARA believe in the great light and creator god FARO, a kind of redeemer and organizer of the universe who is enthroned in the seventh heaven and sends rain which brings fertility. The sacred colour white is used in sacrifices and at one time, the most beautiful girl was richly adorned and sacrificed at the riverside each year as his bride. According to the myth, FARO bestowed upon man their conscience, order and purity, as well as a sense of responsibility. FARO also created female twins and through his messenger, the swallow he made them pregnant and brought into being the first BAMBARA. For this reason, twins are regarded as being the bringers of good fortune.

Life in the villages is ruled by secret societies to which the male BAMBARA belong.
The N’TOMO which protects the boys awaiting initiation: These boys belong, from their seventh year of life, to the N’TOMO Society, and once they have achieved manhood through circumcision ceremonies, they remain as an age group which will always be bound in mutual loyalty throughout life.
The KOMO which has the smith as its head and exercises judicial power.
The Smiths—NUMU were feared and also despised and lived alone, marrying amongst themselves. The same group provided the carvers who produced the sacred masks and figures.
Besides them there are the KULE who are also carvers and who also live apart.

The carvings of the Bambara are of great number and variety and are of a monumental and elegant style. The world famous CHI WARA head dress for the antelope dance is amongst the most beautiful and ingenious works of African sculpture. The proud eland, the emanation of the creator god FARO is the tribal animal of the BAMBARA and the mythical spirit of work, for it once taught men how to cultivate grain.

The CHIWARA dances are closely connected with the magical relationship of the FARO to the fertility of their fields and women. The men wear the head dresses and dance a distinctive slowly weaving circular dance with constant respectful genuflections. The male and female antelope always form a pair and the great spirit would kill anyone who tried to separate them in the rite. They also dance after the conclusion of their puberty celebrations before the nubile girls who are richly adorned with cowrie shells.

The CHI WARA can be distinguished into three main groups:

1. The SEEGU-MINIANKA type of the eastern Bambara region, the structure of which is vertical. Above a small body rises a powerful curved neck with a broad mane of decorative openwork, a firm narrow head and slightly curved horns riding majestically above. The hind which belongs to this type has no mane, instead it bears a small kid upon its back and has straight horns. They are formed with powerful spiral curves.
2. The “Horizontal type” of the northwestern region around BAMAKO, There the antelope, its horns bearing spiral curves, leaps across horizontally. It is formed in two parts which are joined together at the neck with a metal ring. The surface of many of the CHI WARA is completely smooth, but that of others is entirely covered with a delicate pattern of curves, representing the pattern of the animals’ coat.
3. The SEGUNI type found in the villages around Buguni in the southern western Bambara region. Here we find the vertical abstract type, The interplay of forms between the zig-zag pattern, the horns and the curve of the neck, with the head growing to a point and the body of the antelope is sometimes arbitrarily joined to that of another animal (horse, chameleon) which as one of the first animals in creation is said to have been meant to bring immortality to the Bambara—or a lizard or gazelle. In some cases the figure of a woman may be on top which may refer to the myth in which the jealous twin brought evil. The dance for which the SUGUNI type is used is more wild than in the case of other types.

Few objects are so generally identified with African art as the Bamana "antelope" crest mask. It is actually a complex object, with tremendous variations in style and technique. These differences are usually attributed to the regional styles set forth in 1960 by Robert Goldwater, whose work relied on museum-based research and the 1934-35 field data of F. H. Lem. This mask exemplifies a style of carving that uses a vertical one-piece format that emphasizes the neck and mane. It is distinguished by the deep inside curve of the throat, the dividing of the neck into openwork and triangular elements, the two notched forms articulating the mane, and the curved, unadorned tail. Other traits--the straight vertical horns, bending backward at the tip, covered with spiral incised decoration on the shaft; the elongated face and nose with parallel lines carved from the forehead band to the mouth; the bands of triangular impressed patterns obscured by a thick patina--are shared with groupings such as the Master of the Flying Mane. Despite disparate forms, "antelope" crest masks share the same symbolism. Most African artists use depictions of animals to convey lessons. An appropriate animal is selected according to well-known distinctive physical or behavioral traits. The physical features of different animals are often combined to create mythical creatures whose symbolic powers are greater than ordinary beasts. These crest masks combine the horns of a large antelope; the body of an aardvark with its big ears, short legs and thick tail; and the textured skin and curling ability of the pangolin--all animals who dig up the earth. This makes them fitting representations of Chi Wara, the supernatural being who the Bamana traditionally believed taught people to farm. Earrings, of red fiber or cowrie shell, reinforce the idea that these are not ordinary animals. Young men once wore male and female pairs of masks in a dance performance that taught, praised and encouraged good farmers. Ceremonies were held in the fields. Today, because of conversion to Islam and modern changes in employment and school attendance, the masquerade has become more a popular entertainment and less a performance associated with a men's initiation society. Many replicas of the mask can be found for sale in urban markets; it is even copied in other parts of Africa for the export trade.
http://africa.si.edu/collections/view/objects/asitem/3070/1/title-asc?t:state:flow=db770678-2fe2-456d-9a52-4ded80a4ada7 cited in 2010

Les cimiers ciwara sont parmi les objets d’art africain les plus connus au monde. Fixée sur une coiffe d'osier, ou de tissu, cette sculpture intervient dans les rites agraires de la société ciwara ("champion des cultures"). Coiffés d'une cagoule rouge et vêtus d'un manteau de fibres teinté par la boue, les danseurs de la société d'initiés ciwara se produisent juste avant la saison des pluies et à l'occasion du défrichage d'un champ en saison sèche. La danse stimule la croissance des plantes et produit d'abondantes récoltes. Le masque ciwara représente un animal mâle ou une femelle, ou la combinaison hybride de plusieurs animaux (antilope, fourmilier, pangolin). La société ciwara était largement répandue au Mali, on le rencontre encore aujourd’hui dans les villages isolés.
http://www.african-paris.com/
cited in 2011








 

Chiwara / Tiy Wara koun or Sogoni koun = Sogonikun vertical headdress


Bought in 2013 from a collector in the UK.

Not available.

For information and photos of similar objects, see for instance the book Alisa LaGamma, Genesis_Ideas_of_Origin_in_African_Sculpture, 2002, numbers 49, 50, 51.

A very similar object from a collection in The Netherlands has been offered for sale by Dartevelle, famous dealer in traditional African art in Brussels in June 2014, for 3500 Euro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

similar objects:


auction Christies lot 37
A BAMBARA ANTELOPE HEADDRESS
SOGONI KOUN-CHI WARA
Sale Information : Sale 2492 — THE JOSEF HERMAN COLLECTION OF AFRICAN ART 12 December 2000 Amsterdam
sold 1559 $
http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/a-bambara-antelope-headdress-chi-wara-1954141-details.aspx?from=salesummary&intObjectID=1954141&sid=cea75cb5-030b-493c-9709-95184b1dbf71









The Collection of Frieda and Milton Rosenthal: African and Oceanic Art 14 November 2008 | 2:00 PM EST | New York 21
A superb Bamana antelope headdress, Bougouni Region, Mali sogoni koun, of highly abstract, vertical form with an openwork body and three pairs of projections at the crest; dark brown patina.
height 21 7/8 in. 55.5 cm
Estimate 15,000 — 25,000
34,375 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
Provenance:
Michel Anstett,
Paris Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 21, 1967, lot 4
Exhibited:
The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, African Art in Westchester from Private Collections, April 24 – June 6, 1971
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture, November 19, 2002 - April 13, 2003
Literature:
The Hudson River Museum (ed.), African Art in Westchester from Private Collections, Yonkers, 1971, cat. 20 (unillustrated)
Alisa LaGamma, Genesis: Ideas of Origin in African Sculpture, New York, 2002, p. 95, cat. 51
http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2008/the-collection-of-frieda-and-milton-rosenthal-african-and-oceanic-art-n08510/lot.21.html










206 - Cimier de danse agraire "Cywara". Bambara, Mali
56x20cm
300/500 €
sold 2014-01-26 Castor&Hara, France
hammer price 780 euro = sold 975 euro

 









 

small iron face mask
of the Bambara / Bamana / (Baumana) or neighboring Dogon people from Mali

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available

This type of mask has not been linked to any specific society or ceremony, as far as I know, so that usage is unclear.

to some pictures of similar masks found on the WWW:     1    2    3    4








miniature hyena mask = masquette, with round eyes

not available

 

 

 

miniature hyena mask = masquette, with rectangular eyes

not available

bought from a dealer in African art in Brussels, Belgium, in 2013

 










 

Dogon people

     

The Dogon live mainly in Mali along the Bandiagara escarpment, a range of cliffs approximately 120 miles long and in places up to one thousand feet high, in small villages on the plain at the foot of the escarpment.

The Dogon have been studied relatively well, so that information about their way of living and their art can be found in many publications. See for instance

The following text fragments about the Dogon are from http://www.zyama.com/ (cited 2003):

“The 250,000 Dogon live 180 miles south of Timbuktu on the cliffs of Bandiagara, which dominate the plains for over 150 miles. At first hunters, now on their small fields they cultivate millet, sorghum, wheat, and onion. The millet is stored in high quadrangular granaries around which they build their houses. Because of the difficult approach to these regions and the aridity of the climate, the Dogon have been isolated and hence were able to conserve their ancient religious habits and ways of making the necessary implements, their carvings.

Dogon social and religious organizations are closely interlinked and out of this arose principal cults, which accounts for the richness and diversity of Dogon culture and art. The hogon is the religious leader of a region, in charge of the cult of lebe, the mythical serpent. Assisted by the blacksmith, he presides over agrarian ceremonies. The clans are subdivided onto lineages, overseen by the patriarch, guardian of the clan’s ancestral shrine and officiant at the totemic animal cult. Beside this hierarchical system of consanguinity, male and female associations are entrusted with the initiations that take place by age group, corresponding to groups of newly circumcised or excised boys or girls. The Dogon believe these operations remove the female element from males and vice versa. Circumcision thus creates a wholly male or female person prepared to assume an adult role. The members of an age group owe one another assistance until the day they die. Initiation of boys begins after their circumcision, with the teaching of the myths annotated by drawings and paintings. The young boys will learn the place of humans in nature, society, and the universe. In the Dogon pantheon Amma appears as the original creator of all the forces of the universe and of his descendant Lebe, the god of plant rebirth. Amma is also the creator of the ancestors of each clan. Among the many other gods, Nommo, the water spirit, is often represented in conjunction with Amma. For these various cults the hogon is both priest and political chief of the village. The smiths and woodcarvers, who form a separate caste, transmit their profession by heredity. They may only marry within their own caste. Women are in charge of pottery making.”

The following text fragments about Dogon masks are from http://www.zyama.com/ (cited 2003):

“There are nearly eighty styles of masks, but their basic characteristic is great boldness in the use of geometric shapes, independent of the various animals they are supposed to represent. The structure of a large number of masks is based on the interplay of vertical and horizontal lines and shapes. Another large group has triangular, conic shapes. All masks have large geometric eyes and stylized features. The masks are often polychrome, but on many the color is lost; after the ceremonies they were left on the ground and quickly deteriorated because of termites and other conditions. The Dogon continue an ancient masquerading tradition, which commemorates the origin of death. According to their myths, death came into the world as a result of primeval man’s transgressions against the divine order. Every five years, dama memorial ceremonies are held to accompany the dead into the ancestral realm and restore order to the universe. The performance of masqueraders – sometimes as many as 400 – at these ceremonies is considered absolutely necessary. The masks also appear during baga-bundo rites performed by small numbers of masqueraders before the burial of a male Dogon. Dogon masks evoke the form of animals associated with their mythology, yet their significance is only understood by the highest ranking cult members whose role is to explain the meaning of each mask to a captivated audience.”

A book in French has been devoted to the masks of the Dogon:

Bilot, Alain et al.
Masques de Pays Dogon.
Paris : Adam Biro, 2001, 191 pp.

The following text was written at the occasion of the exhibition at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, The Netherlands, in 2005:
"The Dogon live in Mali, on the Plateau, along the Bandiagara escarpment and in the plain of Seno-Gondo, the latter extending into Burkina Faso. And we find Dogon people outside Dogon territory - in large Malinese conurbations such as Mopti and Bamako, as also in Ghana, Ivory Coast and France. They all identify themselves as Dogon, despite wide cultural differences.
The Dogon have become the best-known people of Africa, thanks to the many publications and films about them. Their culture and the imposing landscape in which they live have contributed to their familiarity. Although they are few in number, they have succeeded in keeping their traditions alive.
Dogon art is known world-wide. Many artists - surrealists, cubists and the Cobra group - have drawn inspiration from it and collectors are prepared to pay a fortune for Dogon pieces. Recently a Dogon statue was sold to a Paris museum for € 4million. The local population sees practically nothing of this money.
Some objects in daily use, such as forked stepladders and the doors and locks of granaries, are regarded in the West as true objets d'art. The auction house catalogues regularly offer this type of object at high prices. Dogon stepladders now decorate the interiors of many modern Western houses.
Many of the objects in this exhibition come from the Musée National du Mali. They were collected in the course of a campaign organised jointly by the Musée National and the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A new collaborative project with the Mission Culturelle de Bandiagara is designed to preserve some villages in Dogon territory. In this way at least part of the Dogon cultural inheritance will be preserved for future generations."


 

from http://tribart.blogspot.com/ we learn the following:

The DOGON from northern Mali are called HABRE (unbelievers) by the Fulani, because they resisted Islam, and following their migration under pressure from the MOSSI kingdom, they sought shelter among the rocky country at the foot of the Bandiagara and Hombori mountains where they wrested fields from the arid ground with the aid of artificial irrigation.

Their carving is of great variety and interest, and much is known about the ancient myths to which the sculptures refer. Their creator god was AMMA and there were eight NOMMO who are regarded as his messengers and as incarnations of his life force. It was also the Nommo who became men.

The seventh NOMMO who became man was the HOGON or High Priest and was the smith and it was he who arrived on earth either in an ark or on horseback bringing important cultural materials and techniques. The myths tell of the god AMMA who created the earth from clay. The earth was feminine and the termite hill represented the clitoris. AMMA had intercourse with the earth who was an unwilling partner and from this union was born DYOUGOU and SEROU who in turn committed incest with his mother. Statues of these two often depict them with their hands over their eyes symbolizing shame over the act of incest. Because the initial act of creation had got off to such a bad start, AMMA decided to excise the earth’s clitoris and once again had intercourse with her and the offspring of this union was a pair of strange beings known as NOMMO. The NOMMO had supple bodies with no joints and only one single leg in the shape of a drumstick. The pair were bisexual, but the male element dominated in one and the female in the other. The latter gave birth to four NOMMO couples considered to be the eight original ancestors of man.

The much celebrated DOGON door locks are seldom found in the shape of the NOMMO but the shape is common in other DOGON sculptures. The head is a semicircular form resting on two breasts which form the neck. Visually, the body of the lock becomes the body of the figure. Door locks are becoming increasingly rare with the spread of ISLAM. Peer pressure often forces people to remove the door locks and another reason is fear that they will be stolen for resale. Many of the old family locks are kept hidden in the home against such occurrences. There are no known large collections of door locks which makes comparison of styles and designs very difficult.
 

old Kanaga (Kananga) face mask

Kanaga masks are famous icons/emblems of African art.
Good examples belong for instance to the collections of

The Dogon style is rather "cubistic".
The male society named "awa" organizes initiation rituals, ceremonies before a burial named "bagabundo" / "baga bundo", and the famous "dama" ceremonies that can last for several days and that are devoted to those who died during recent years. The Kanaga masks are one of the most prominent types of masks that are worn during the "dama", besides the Sirige mask, the Satimbe mask and many zoomorphic masks.

The lower part that covers the face may be a stylized/abstracted representation of a a bird called the Komolo Tebu / Kommolo Tebu. This part is encircled by dyed fibers when the mask is used.

The upper part, the superstructure consists always of a central vertical part with separate, parallel, horizontal wooden crossbars/blades/planks; then at the ends of these crossbars smaller planks are attached that point up or down; all this may be a stylized/abstracted representation of a bird in flight or of a crocodile or it may show the links of each human being with both earth and sky/heaven.
The top end of the central vertical part, plank of the superstructure may be surmounted by a small male and female couple that represent the first human couple to which the Dogon trace their origin.

The white and black or dark pigments refer to the colours of the bird that is represented by the face mask.
Additional blue and red pigments bring additional, sacred colors.

The WWW site of the National Museum of African Art in Washington, USA, http://www.nmafa.si.edu/pubaccess/index.htm learns us the following about the Kanaga masks:
"Traditionally Dogon masks are controlled by the Awa society, a group of predominantly male initiates who conduct the public rites that insure the transition of the dead into the spirit world. A large number of masks participate in Dogon funerary rites and the dama, a celebration at the end of mourning. The masks also appear in the sigui, a celebration held only every 60 years to mark the change in generations.
There are more than 70 different Dogon masks, which can be grouped according to medium, whether fiber or wood; subject, whether animal, human or abstract; ..."

Texts about Kanaga masks and photos of old pieces can be found for instance on pp. 110-117 in
Bilot, Alain et al.
Masques de Pays Dogon.
Paris : Adam Biro, 2001, 191 pp.

"The kanaga, characterized by its double-barred superstructure, has been interpreted variously as representing a bird, a crocodile, God, or the cosmic realms of sky and earth. Kanaga maskers perform as part of dama rites, whose goal is to escort the soul of a deceased on its journey to the spiritual realm. The masks are spectacular in motion---dramatic dips and whirls in which the dancer touches the top of the mask to the ground with each rapid revolution."
(source = http://www.cma.org/ 2005)

bought on an auction in Antwerp, Belgium in the 1970's

not available

The lower part only is shown on the photo.

good shape; with traces of white and pink pigments

 

Kanaga (Kananga) face mask of the Dogon people

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

sold

In this piece, the central vertical part of the superstructure is surmounted by a small male and female couple.








 

Kanaga (Kananga) face mask of the Dogon people

not available

bought from the family in Antwerpen, Belgium, of the person who brought this mask in the early 1970's to Belgium

Similar masks in the collection of Picasso:








 

Satimbe mask

available

Photo is not yet available.

Texts about Satimbe masks and photos of old pieces can be found for instance on pp. 138-143 in
Bilot, Alain et al.
Masques de Pays Dogon.
Paris : Adam Biro, 2001, 191 pp.

 

 

 

 

face mask of the Bolo / Bolon from Burkina Faso or of the Bambara / Bamana or Marka or Soninke from Mali

  

bought on an auction of African art in Antwerp, Belgium

not available

wood covered with leaves of metal (copper?), and with iron nails; 45 cm high

A photo of exactly this particular mask has been published in the following  book :
The Medieval World: An Illustrated Atlas National Geographic
Author: John M. Thompson
Publisher: National Geographic Society
2010
ISBN 1426205333, 9781426205330
Length 384 pages

 

A similar mask has been published in
Lem, F.
SUDANESE SCULPTURE
Art et Métiers Graphiques
1949
110 PAGES

 

Two very similar masks have been published in
Atkins, Guy (Editor)
Manding Art and Civilization.
London: Studio International, 1972, 47 pp., b/w illustrations, Language: eng, ill., maps ; 25 cm; softcover, ISBN: 0902063081. Published on the occasion of an exhibition Manding: Focus on an African Civilisation at the Department of Ethnography, British Museum ... 23 June to 31 August 1972.
One mask is printed on the cover.


The similar mask in Marseille:

A photo of a very similar mask is published as Koufen mask of the Bolo on p. 357 in
Roy, Christopher
Traduction et adaptation en Français F. Chaffin
Art of the Upper Volta rivers
Paris
Meudon
1987
384 pp.
325 ills & 16 col. plts.
Cloth
, d/j.
Text in English and French

A very similar mask of 41 cm high has been published as Masque Bolon, Bamana, Marka, Mali in the book
Jacques Kerchache, Jean-Louis Paudrat, Lucien Stephan
L'art et les grandes civililitations: L'art africain.
Paris : Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., p. 370.

The Bolon are a small tribe in the region that is now known as Burkina Faso close to Mali. Their neighbours, the Marka and Senoufo/Senufo tribes, are more famous.

This kind of masks is famous and many pieces with a great variety of models and styles have been described and published. The Bamana/Bambara used them in initiation ceremonies of young boys. The n'tomo/ ntomo / n'domo / ndomo / ntoma is the second of the initiation societies of the Bamana/Bambara.
Young boys from three to six years old must become member to be prepared to participate in the intellectual, social, political, economical, moral and religious life of their people through all kinds of activities.

Most masks have some common characteristics:

In the Bambara region, in many pieces kauri shells are encrusted on the peaks and on the face; these are symbols of wishes for fertility and procreation. Only few masks were covered with metal.
The Marka and the Bolon used more metal sheets to cover their masks.
The costume of the dancers hides their body completely.

"Les masques du Ntomo entièrement plaqués de feuilles de cuivre, anciens, sont rares. Si les deux exemplaires les plus connus, appartenant tous deux à la collection Léonce et Pierre Guerre, à Marseille, ont été fréquemment reproduits, ils demeurent peu étudiés.
Le Ntomo, d'origine Bamana, est l'une des sociétés d'initiation enfantines les plus connues, répandue dans toute la vallée du fleuve Niger. Au même titre que l'institution elle-même, ses masques ont été adoptés par les peuples voisins. Les Marka (ou Marka Soninké, par opposition aux Marka vivant sur le territoire de l'actuel Burkina Faso) et les Bolon partagent avec les Bamana les masques du Ntomo surmontés d'une rangée de cornes et plaqués de feuilles de cuivre. Il demeure donc difficile d'identifier avec certitude la provenance de ces masques.
Selon Roy (1987 : 356-359), les masques offrant un visage plus naturaliste et moins anguleux seraient l'œuvre des sculpteurs Bolon, auxquels il attribue le fameux masque plaqué de cuivre de la collection Léonce et Pierre Guerre, aujourd'hui conservé au Musée d'Arts Africains, Océaniens, Amérindiens, Marseille (inv. n° 988-001-004), illustré dans Sweeney (1935 : n°7)."
"Ancient Ntomo masks, entirely covered in copper leafing, are very rare. Although the two most famous examples, both in the Léonce & Pierre Guerre collection in Marseille, are often reproduced, they have been little studied to date.
The Ntomo, of Bamana origin, is one of the best-known children's initiation societies and spreads all along the Niger River valley. As with the institution itself, its masks were adopted by neighbouring peoples. The Marka (or Marka Soninke, as opposed to the Marka living in what is now Burkina Faso) and the Bolon share with the Bamana Ntomo masks with a row of horns on the crest and plated with copper leaf. It is therefore difficult to identify the provenance of these masks with any certainty.
According to Roy (1987: 356-359), the masks representing a more naturalist and less angular face are the work of Bolon sculptors, credited with creating the famous copper-plated mask in the Léonce & Pierre Guerre collection now held in the Marseille Musée d'Arts Africains, Océaniens, Amérindiens, (inv. No. 988-001-004), illustrated in Sweeney (1935: no.7)."
(source = WWW site of Sotheby's, sothebys.com, 2005)

"Le Ntomo est la seconde des sociétés d'initiations par lesquelles passera successivement tout homme Bamana, à partir de son plus jeune âge. Selon Cissé (in Dapper, 2000 : 149-150), le Ntomo est placé sous le patronage de Faro, dieu de l'eau, troisième divinité à apparaître dans le mythe Bamana de la création. Combinant les forces opposées d'ordre culturel et naturel, elle est décrite comme une divinité androgyne, qui serait "au centre", le "pivot", la "tête" de toutes les choses (Dieterlen, 1950)."
"The Ntomo is the second of the initiation societies through which each Bamana male would advance from a very early age. According to Cissé (in Dapper, 2000: 149-150), the Ntomo was placed under the patronage of Faro, god of water, the third divinity to appear in the Bamana creation myth. Combining the opposing forces of culture and nature, the divinity is described as androgynous, a divinity "at the centre", the "pivot", the "head" of all things (Dieterlen, 1950)."
(source = WWW site of Sotheby's, sothebys.com, 2005)

"The Ntomo, a society of the as-yet uncircumcised children, is well-known in the West thanks to its beautiful masks and the classical book by Dominique Zahan (Zahan 1960). widespread throughout the Niger Vally, Ntomo cannot, however, be considered "universal" among the Bamana. It prevailed mainly in the Beledugu, Bamako and Mande areas, between the Niger and Bani rivers, in the Baninko, the Bendugu and the Minyankala. It still exists in many localities, although it has been altered under Muslim influence. Sometimes Ntomo initiation occurs even if the people are officially Muslim, but mask performances are becoming rare. in some villages, the Ntomo exists under another name: Cebilike (Mande, Beledugu), Nyerezye (Beledugu).
ean Paul Colleyn, the Jow, the initiation as rite of passage Ntomo and Korè, in Bamana, the Art of existence in Mali, Museum for African Art, New York, Rietberg Museum, Zürich, 2001:95.

The Bamana Ntomo masks were worn by boys as they passed through the early cycle of initiation into manhood. The masks reinforce the lessons the boys are taught as they are prepared by elder males in the society for circumcision. There are two main style groups of their masks. One is characterized by an oval face with four to ten horns in a row on top like a comb, often covered with cowries or dried red berries. The other type has a ridged nose, a protruding mouth, a superstructure of vertical horns, in the middle of which or in front of which is a standing figure or an animal. The ntomo masks with thin mouths underscore the virtue of silence and the importance of controlling one’s speech. During their time in ntomo the boys learn to accept discipline. They do not yet have access to the secret knowledge related to korè and other initiation societies. Members wore a wooden face mask during the initiation festival at harvest time and when begging for rice.
One reference says the number of horns on such masks to symbolizes a human being's levels of increased knowledge based on the initiation stages, while another reference sites that Ntomo masks with an even number of horns are female and those with an odd number of horns are male. Some masks are plain wood with no decoration while others are covered in brass reprouse, cowrie shells or small red seeds with further esoteric significance and the masks will vary greatly by region.
The wearer of these masks will usually be seen walking through the village and entering the family compounds to announce a ritual or a puppet masquerade. The village association comprises female and male divisions and is organized according to age groups (flan-bolow). One enters the ton after circumcision and leaves it at the age of about thirty-five. Every year the ton organizes a festival (called Checko) of theatrical performances in the village square. These include koteba and the puppets known as sogo bo in a succession of light-hearted sketches that satirize aspects of Bamana social and religious life. Prior to the public performances, ton members parade through the village streets accompanying masks (sogow) such as Ngon and Ntomo. Sogobaw (big beasts) resemble small, mobile theaters with a head and a wood-frame body. Small puppets, expertly manipulated, emerge from the back of this “beast”.
Source: Rand African art

A similar mask belongs to the collection http://www.afrikamuseum.nl/museum/index.htm [accessed 2006]








 


south Tanzania and north Mozambique

Makonde people/tribe

old helmet mask Lipiko/Mapiko

bought in Antwerp, Belgium.

available!

A photo of this particular mask has been copied and included in an article on Makonde culture:
http://eonyango.blogspot.be/2009/05/makonde-woodcarvings-symbolizes-african.html
That article has been copied and is shown also in a WWW site on Makonde culture: http://makondeland.wordpress.com/carvin/

The mask includes real human hair, is quite naturalistic and slightly frightening.

Many similar masks have been published. Good examples belong for instance to the collection of the Musee Dapper in Paris, France, and of the Ethnographical Museum of Antwerp in Belgium.
This type of mask was worn over the head by both and women mainly with the Mapiko masquerade in initiation rites for both men and women from isolation and instruction of the female arts in initiation camps.
The masks were danced opposite each other in two pairs, one representing the male gender, the other the female. To enhance their realism/naturalism, the masks were decorated with the same kinds of facial scarification patterns that people used, as well as with tufts of real human hair inserted into tiny slits cut into the top of the mask head.

see for instance a similar mask on p. 255
Schädler/Schaedler, Karl Ferdinand
Gods Spirits Ancestors: African sculpture from private German Collections, Villa Stuck
München : Panterra
1992
247 pages
ISBN 3781403416

"The Makonde are best known for their masks representing human and animal characters. Two major styles exist: rather abstract face masks that were collected in large numbers by German colonials in what is now Tanzania, and more naturalistic helmet masks, that were produced by the Makonde living in Mozambique. These masks are associated with male and female initiations. The German ethnographer Karl Weule, who, just after the turn of the century, collected most of the masks that are now in German museums, reported that the male and female masks were used to celebrate the emergence of young women from initiation camps. “The four masks...stand up two and two, each pair facing the other, and begin the same series of movements... The masks are of wood, two of them representing men, and two women. This is evident a hundred paces off, from the prominence give to the pelele [lip labret], whose white stands out with great effect from the rigid black surface” (Weule 1909: 235). Jorge and Margot Dias have studied the Makonde over the past thirty years and indicate that masks are worn in mapiko dances associated with the initiation of both men and women. Initiation includes instruction in the skills of adulthood, as well as in Makonde dances, songs, and the costumes and secrets of the mapiko masks. The initiates are told that the masks are not the spirits of the dead, but are worn by living men, and after a period of training in dance, they wear the masks in a great festival at the center of the village. The masks may also appear during an ngoma ceremony in which adolescents are taught about marriage and the demands of adult family life (Dias 1961: 31, 46, 57-60; Dias and Dias 1964: 56-81; 1970: 159-217). Makonde artists add to the naturalism of their carvings by using beeswax and human hair to represent scarification patterns and fashionable hairstyles. Many of the female masks include the large lip labrets that Makonde women used to wear."
(source = Stanley Collection Database, 1999)

"The Makonde of northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania wore helmet masks for initiation ceremonies called Lipiko for both boys and girls. The mask or "head of the lipiko" (muti wa lipiko) is made of a light, balsa-like wood and worn with a cloth tied around the bottom rim that falls loosely over the masquerader. The naturalism of these masks is often accentuated by the addition of human hair."
(source = WWW site Remnants of Ritual, 2003)

These  masks and their context is described very well in English and in German language in the book
edited and published by Fenzl, Kristian
Makonde Mapiko
This book shows also many small pictures of good pieces.








 


More masks and headdresses have not been photographed and put in this WWW site, due to a lack of time:


any comments, appreciations, guesses, suggestions and opinions are welcome, for instance about origin, probable age, degree of authenticity (really used, traditionally made but not really used, copy/fake...), value...

this document was updated most recently  2014-09


Feel free to contact me for additional information and appraisals: pnieuwen@vub.ac.be


See also:


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