(Balualua, Balwalwa, Lwalu), Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola
Ceremonial bangongo mask. Lwalwa art, known mostly by its masks,
is the most original in a group of tribes located in the region where the Kasai River
marks the border between Zaire and Angola. Sculpting
is recognized as a prestigious profession and is usually passed on from father to son.
Sculptors are a privileged caste of the communitya successful sculptor can
accumulate wealth, become a chief and organize dancesand the Lwalwa are renowned
dancers. Women and children are not allowed to view ceremonies in which the masks are
used. The masks had an important function in the bangongo dance of the hunting
ritual. When hunters returned empty-handed, the
ancestors would be appeased by organizing a dance. The
masks were also used in a secret ritual of the bangongo society, in charge
of initiation and circumcision of young men. The choreography of masked dances was highly
complex and had to appease the spirits of the ancestors and compel them to intervene.
Masks still play a role today in secular festivities.
16, W. 8 ½, D. 6