TITLE: Kumu Nsembu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Kumu
DESCRIPTION: Nsembu Nkunda Society Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD019
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Secret Society; Adult Initiation; Divination
AGE: 1980s-1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Kumu or Komo people inhabit the Ituri rainforests in the eastern part of Congo.  They are agriculturalists with animist traditions.

A culturally important ritual for the Kumu people is the circumcision of boys as they enter adulthood.  The nsembu mask is used exclusively by members of the Nkunda Secret Society for the purposes of adult initiation. They also use the mask for divination under the effects of hallucinogens.  The mask itself represents the diviner’s spirit.  Kumu masks are somewhat rare, but the known examples tend to have wide open eyes and mouths, frequently with sharp teeth.

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TITLE: Teke Kidumu Mask
TYPE: plank mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Teke
DESCRIPTION: Teke Kidumu Society plank mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD021
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Funeral; Secret Society
AGE: 2000-2005
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin; pigment

The Teke people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) established a kingdom in the 8th century on the Zaire River, ruled by a monarch whose authority is primarily spiritual. Political power is exercised by a structure of regional and village clan chiefs. Chiefs and priests, always men, belong to Mungala Society.

The Kidumu Secret Society, composed solely of adult men, plays a central role in adult initiation rituals, funerals and other major village events.  In the northwest region of their territory, a dancer from the Kidumu Society wears an abstract plank mask of the kind shown here, with a costume of raffia fiber and feathers to hide the body. The mask is associated with a bush spirit known as “Nkita.” Representing the spirit, the masquerader enters the village from the forest and dances an energetic cartwheeling dance alone to music rather than in a group before retiring again to the forest.

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