TITLE: Pende Mbuya Jia Muketu
TYPE: face mask
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
DESCRIPTION: Mbuya Jia Muketu (Young Woman’s) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Bandundu
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Entertainment; Healing; Protection/Purification
AGE: 1950s
OTHER MATERIALS: bark cloth; plant fiber; pigment

The Pende people have many different kinds of masks. This mask belongs to a group called mbuya jia muketu among the central Pende, and gambanda among the eastern Pende. Mbuya masks are usually made of wood, like this one. This type represents the ideal beauty of a young female Pende, whose appearance and disposition qualify her to marry a high-ranking Pende male. Such masks are typically performed with restrained movements. Mbuya jia muketu masks form an important component of public entertainments during sowing and harvest celebrations, but they may also be danced to pray to ancestors to heal a sick chief or to protect or cure the village during epidemics.

This mask was field collected in Bandundu in the 1950s, probably before being used significantly.