M7H7M053S.jpg (38033 bytes)M7H7M053.jpg (38520 bytes)Hemba (Bahemba), Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mwisi wa so’o mask. In southeast DRC, the 80,000 Hemba people inhabit vast plains surrounded by high hills and bordered by streams, rocks, and marshes. They are primarily subsistence agriculturalists whose main staples include manioc, maize, peanuts, beans and yams. The mwisi wa so’o mask is used in So’o, a semi-secret society. It represents a strange were-chimpanzee, partaking of characteristics of both the animal and the human order, but really being of neither. The mask suggests an untamed, uncontrolled presence. Pelts from both domestic and wild animals, along with materials of both village and forest, comprise the costume for the intimidating so’o. So’o is like a spirit of the deceased, not yet installed in the world of the dead, no longer part of the world of the living. During the dances the mask is held near the face.

Material:  wood

Size: H. 11”, W. 7”, D. 4”