TITLE: Pende Mbangu
TYPE: face mask
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
ETHNICITY: Central Pende
DESCRIPTION: Mbangu mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Adult Initiation
AGE: ca. 1970s-1980s
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.