Africa

Mwaash aMbooy Kuba mask

Q: Please find attached a Kuba mask, also collected by father in the 50’s. Exceptionally well made both in terms of craftsmanship and artistic symmetry. Facial cover made of iron plate. Height 62cm and width at base 45cm. It has been worn, but not much. Jan, 1568

A: Rarely does the Mask Man get to see high quality artifacts in his mail. Of course, elaborately beaded Kuba masks are popular with collectors and you can easily find them on the internet. But they won’t be quite as nice as this one. Please increase the size of these photos to appreciate the detail.

The Kuba Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of the Bakuba or Bushongo, is a Kingdom in Central Africa. The Kuba Kingdom flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries in the region now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Kuba people are most famous for these monumental helmet masks, featuring exquisite geometric patterns, stunning fabrics, seeds, beads and shells. They have been described as a people who cannot bear to leave a surface without ornament.

There are more than twenty different types of masks that function within the men’s initiation society. Mwaash aMbooy mu shall is one of the three most important and represents Woot, the founding hero from whom the Kuba believe themselves to be descended. Mwaash aMbooy mu shall masks are worn by the nyimi, or king, of the Kuba or by chiefs in villages. The nyimi’s mask is usually made of leopard skin, while those of chiefs are made of antelope skin. A

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