TITLE: Pende Mbangu
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
ETHNICITY: Central Pende
DESCRIPTION: Mbangu Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation
AGE: ca. 1970s-1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: wicker; plant fiber; cotton fabric; kaolin clay; pigment

The Pende people have many different kinds of masks they wear, especially at adult initiation rituals and funerals. The mbangu is one such mask.  It represents a hunter struck with disease in the form of facial palsy, caused by the curse of an envious sorcerer. The grossly distorted face is matched by a hunchbacked costume with an arrow stuck in it (sorcerers are believed to shoot their curses like arrows). Under his costume, the dancer wears wooden bells of the kind put on hunting dogs. The mask is characteristically half white and half black, suggesting that the sorcery caused the hunter to fall into a fire and scorch his face. The purpose of this mask is to teach community morality by showing the evil effects of sorcery. As the mbangu dances, singers chant a song about how he was struck with sorcery and the village is unable to help him.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
YEAR PRINTED: 2001
VALUE: 300 Congolese francs

This stamp is one of a set of three celebrating the traditional masks of the region. This stamp depicts a mask from the Luba ethnic group. The Luba are closely related to the Songye people.  This specific mask is a kifwebe, used in adult initiation rituals and to purify the village of sorcery.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
YEAR PRINTED: 2001
VALUE: 200 Congolese francs

This stamp is one of a set of three celebrating the traditional masks of the region. This stamp depicts a mask from the Chokwe ethnic group. The Chokwe are celebrated for their plastic arts, especially wood masks and sculptures.  This specific mask is a mwana pwo, or female ancestor of great beauty, and it is used in adult initiation ceremonies for boys.

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REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
YEAR PRINTED: 2001
VALUE: 10 Congolese francs

This stamp is one of a set of three celebrating the traditional masks of the region. This stamp depicts a buffalo mask of the Tabwa ethnic group. The Tabwa form a small group that historically lived under the domination of the Luba people.  Tabwa masks are known to come in only two varieties, a human female and a male buffalo. Both are used in fecundity rituals for women who have difficulty conceiving a child.

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TITLE: Kumu Nsembu Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Kumu
DESCRIPTION: Nsembu Nkunda Society Mask
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: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Teke
DESCRIPTION: Teke Kidumu Society Plank Mask
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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TITLE: Songye Face Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
ETHNICITY: Songye
DESCRIPTION: Bambudye Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification; Secret Society; Social Control; War Preparation
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: kaolin

The Songye people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) are closely related to the Luba people of the same region.  Both use a variety of face masks for social control and village purification.  The Songye were formerly a warlike people and used their masks to frighten enemies, as well as to frighten away evil spirits from the village or from a sick individual plagued by them.  The masks are danced by secret societies to protect the village and are usually worn with a full body costume of raffia.  Songye masks are typically characterized by striations carved into the face, representing the facial scarification used by Songye warriors.

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