TITLE: Kuba Pwoom Itok
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of Congo
DESCRIPTION: Pwoom Itok Mask
CATALOG ID: AFCD004
MAKER: Unknown maker in the Kasai River region
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation; Status
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: natural pigments
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 pwoom itok mask represents remains a matter of some speculation, but it may have originally meant to depict a wise elder. The mask is used at the adult initiation rituals of boys. It would be worn with a cane, cloth, and feather headdress, and a cloth suit covered in cowrie shells to indicate high rank.