B5K6M495.jpg (39090 bytes)Kuba (Bakuba, Bushongo), Democratic Republic of the Congo

Pwoom itok dance mask. The Kuba, numbering 250,000, form a confederation of nineteen ethnic groups dominating by the Bushong. They cultivate manioc, corn, gourds, bananas, pineapples, and tobacco. The creator god is not formally worshiped. At one time the Kuba had a religion based on ancestor worship, but this seems to have died out, although divination is still practiced in order to discover causes of evil. The Kuba have over twenty different mask types considered embodiments of spirit. In addition to the three royal masks, there are other dance masks, of which the main one is the pwoom itok presented here. Its primary characteristic is the shape of the eyes, whose centers are expressed as cones surrounded by small holes. Sub-styles have multiplied the variations of this mask. One widespread context for masking is initiation when 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.     

Material: wood                                          Size:   9”x7”x5”

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