TITLE: Kuba Mukenga Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Congo, Dem. Rep. of
SUBREGION: Western Kasai
DESCRIPTION: Mukenga Helmet Mask
CEREMONY: Funeral; Secret Society; Status
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; glass beads; cowrie shells; leopard fur; thread; plant fiber; metal plating
The Kuba people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have several masks associated with royalty. The mukenga mask is associated with the highest status of the Babende initiation society through its invocation of the most powerful forest animals, the leopard and the elephant (note its trunk-like crest). Cowrie shells and glass beads were valuable trade goods and their use denotes wealth and status.
Mukenga masks are danced at funerals of titled nobility by members of the mukenga society. Because the mukenga masquerader has no vision (the helmet mask has no eye holes), attendants assist him to remain within the dance area. The mukenga dancer represents an important person visiting the village to pay respects to the deceased.