African art > Mask > Hemba Mask
Masquette Hemba Sukumutu (N° 15095)
Mastering the sculpture with talent, the Hemba have mainly produced statues of ancestors singiti , embodying leaders, local warriors, or lineage ancestors that they venerate in order to appease mizimus spirits. A wide variety of ritual objects, fetishes, simian masks, gourds, and others of daily use have made their reputation. The pieces called soko mutu , suku muntu , (from Swahili," man's brother", and KiHemba, ibombo ya soho : "face de singe") belonged to the cult of ancestors and existed in two forms: on the one hand large masks used in ritual dances, and on the other hand, small masks or statuettes used as gifts, were hung in the boxes as protective amulets. These masks have recently been renamed mwisi gwa so'o , which expresses a concept that it is a chimpanzee spirit that would be embodied in the mask.
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Height on a pedestal: 28 cm.
The Hemba are a subgroup of the Luba ethnic group living in southeastern DR Congo, east of the Lualaba River. The Hemba have long been subject to the neighbouring Luba empire, which had a definite influence on their culture, religion and art. The cult of ancestors is central to Hemba society. Genealogy is indeed the guarantor of privileges and the distribution of land. All aspects of the community are imbued with the authority of ancestors. Thus, they are considered to have an influence on justice, medicine, law and sacrifice. Source: Art and life in Africa , C D. Roy. and "The other face" ed. Adam Biro.
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