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Tribal art > African mask > Mbala mask

Mbala Bakungu / Kwese mask (N° 20341)

Among the sacred symbols of authority (Pindi) of the Mbala, this imposing mask has a polychrome patina that gives it a rare character. Imbued with contemplation and serenity, a powerful physiognomy is imprinted on the heart-shaped face with rounded cheeks. The thick raffia adornment attached to the base, intended to conceal the wearer, remains well preserved. Lacks and abrasions. Minimal cracks. Coming from Angola in the 17th century, the Mbala settled in northwestern Zaire and east among the Pelende, Suku, Pende, and Yaka. Formerly matrilineal, they are made up of clans headed by the maternal uncle. The chief was in charge of the ancestor cult, although it was quite limited. Following a retreat of a few days, royal insignia and charms were given to him, intended to combat powers opposing the hunt, social peace, and the crops. The Kwésé are, meanwhile, established among other tribes such as the Mbala and the Hungaan, along the banks of the Kwango River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their carving is inspired by that of their neighbors and sometimes done by the Mbalas at the request of the Kwese.
The headdress shares great similarities with the mukote headdress which, among the Western Pende with whom the Mbala shared circumcision rituals mukanda, became a symbol of struggle against colonization in the early twentieth century ("Congo Masks," ed. M.L. Félix, p.114)
Ref : "L'Art africain" ed. Mazenod ; "Trésors d'Afrique" (p.309) ed. Musée de Tervuren ; "Art tribal d'Afrique noire." JB Bacquart; "Umbangu, Art du Congo au Musée Royal du Congo Belge" ed. Cultura.  

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OriginCollection P. Malisse
EthnyMbala
Countryrdc ex zaire
Material(s)wood, raphia
Height32
Width25
Weight1.70 Kg
Estimated datingmid-xx°
Socle inclusOptional

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