Exceptional mask of character representing a monkey, and whose power is expressed through features and volumes skillfully rendered. Marks of use, velvety patina, small accidents and abrasions. Residues of red pigments.
Only two types of Hemba masks have been identified: that of an anthropomorphic type with regular features, whose pointed chin is reminiscent of statuary, and those depicting monkeys,the soko mutu , and whose functions remain little known, but which probably belonged, according to J.Kerchache, to the secret societies bugabo and bambudye . The smallest specimens ( about twenty centimeters) would have been carried in the hand during rites intended for the protection of the home and fertility. In addition to the janiform statuettes kabeja , the statues of male ancestors , kept by the hereditary chief of each clan, the fumu mwalo , are called songiti .
It was during the eighteenth century that the Hemba settled on the vast plains of the right bank of the Lualaba. Their society is composed of large clans from a common ancestor. The discovery of Hemba statuary dates from decolonization and has only recently been differentiated from that of the Luba.
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