African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Hemba Mask
Soko mutu Hemba Mask (N° 18031)
The spirit of a primate would be embodied in this hemba mask split with a wide rictus. The prominent forehead houses long eyelids, wrinkled by the grimace. A long nose extends vertically. Mate surface, rough, residual ochre deposits.
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Only two types of Hemba masks have been identified: that of an anthropomorphic type with regular features, whose pointed chin recalls statuary, and those depicting monkeys, the soko mutu, and whose functions remain little known, but which probably belonged, according to J.Kerchache, to the secret societies bugabo and bdambudye . The smallest copies (about 20 centimetres) are said to have been carried by hand during rituals intended for the protection of the home and fertility. In addition to the kabeja janiform statuettes, the statues of male ancestors, kept by the hereditary leader of each clan, the fumu mwalo, are called songiti. It was during the 18th century that the Hemba settled on the vast plains of the right bank of the Lualaba. Their society consists of large clans from a common ancestor. The discovery of hemba statuary dates back to decolonization and has only recently been differentiated from that of the Luba.