TITLE: Kuba Bwoom
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
DESCRIPTION: Bwoom Crest Mask
CEREMONY: Entertainment; Funeral; Status
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: copper sheet; cloth; cowrie shells; beads; plant fiber
The Kuba people inhabit the area south of the Kasai River. Although the Kuba have some two dozen mask types, those still in use today are mostly the three royal masks, whose use is reserved to those given permission by the quasi-divine king (nyimi). These are danced mainly as a form of entertainment reinforcing the status of the royalty and at chiefly funerals. The adult initiation (mukanda) masks are now rarely used in Kuba society.
What the bwoom mask represents varies among Kuba storytellers. Some refer to it as a younger brother of the king, while others represent it as an outsider or commoner. The copper sheeting is a spiritual substance among many African peoples, and among some represents status or royalty. However, in Kuba society, only gilded metal is reserved for the nyimi. As a force opposing the other two royal masks, bwoom must be content with copper. The bwoom dance, unlike other royal dances, is energetic and exuberant.