African art > African mask, tribal art, primitive art > Kongo Mask
Kongo Mask (N° 13500)
Ex-Swiss African art collection.
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This African mask was the prerogative of the nganga, soothsayer. His psychic abilities, which the Kongo thought they fostered through the taking of hallucinogenic substances, were revealed by the eyes of the hollowed-out pupils. Her tribal hairstyle is accentuated by a braided red cotton headband. These types of masks were called ngobudi in reference to a terrible, terrifying thing. The crusty surface reveals remnants of white and red polychrome coatings. These mediating masks, also present in initiation processes, were used by fetishists during healing rituals. At the same time, they were also used to identify individuals who, through their actions, could disrupt the harmony of the community. In the 13th century, the Kongo people, led by their king Ne Kongo , settled in a region at the crossroads of the borders between present-day DRC, Angola and Gabon. Two centuries later, the Portuguese came into contact with the Kongo and converted their king to Christianity. Although monarchical, the Kongo political system had a democratic aspect because the king was actually placed at the head of the kingdom following an election held by a council of tribal governors. This king, also known as ntotela, controlled the appointment of court and provincial officials. Members of the Kongo Group, the Yombe are based on the west coast of Africa, in the south-west of the Republic of Congo and in Angola. Their statuary includes remarkable maternity wards.
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