Africa

Authentic Chokwe pig mask

In the DRC, mask performances that include Ngulu, the domestic pig, are highly entertaining. Ngulu either dances erect or performs on all fours to dramatize the erratic and uncontrollable nature of pigs. During performances, the dignified movements of such human characters as Pwo, the female ancestor, teaches acceptable social behavior in contrast with the unacceptable behavior of some animal characters. Teaching techniques such as dancing masks and puppetry are used during social gatherings for entertainment, to affirm creation myths, and as well in the initiation ceremonies of young boys who then mature into adulthood.

Some people who send mask pictures to me are surprised when I say it is a reproduction made for export. They wonder how I can tell. One way is to recognize that it has been artificially aged (which is the case with most of the masks you will encounter on the market). It is obvious that this pig mask is old and has been used a lot.

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