african masks

A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Pende Sickness Mask

 The Pende sickness mask falls into the category of mbuya masks, which are used to represent different characters. This one, mbangu, represents a cursed man, someone who has been struck by sickness or has had deformities cast upon him by sorcerers.


Pende sickness maskMbangu mask. Central Pende. Bandundu, Zaïre. Wood, pigments, fibre. High: 32 cm
© David Norden,Antwerp

 Although his face shows signs of nerve paralysis, features characteristic of the Katundu style in the Pende region are still apparent: note the eyebrow line in the shape of an inverted "W"; the triangular nose and pointed chin. 

The mask comes from the Central Pende region in the Bandundu province, south of Zaïre. 

The mask shows that a curse can strike — like lightning — without warning. Onlookers see one of their own kind who has been rendered powerless, unable to shake off the curse that has struck him. 

In the past, mbuya masks were used to mark the end of circumcision rituals but today they play a more festive role. Within a group, actors take turns to dance and set the stage for different characters to appear: the chief, the lawmaker, the hunter, the village flirt, the priest, the witchdoctor, etc. Each is characterized by a specific dance step and a distinct rhythm. Mbangu appears as a hunchback who has been struck by an arrow. The masked dancer develops the dance in concert with the audience, who mock him while at the same time chanting an accompaniment. Provenance: Colonial collection. Collected before 1952.

A fine old sickness Pende mask.  This kind of mask inspired Picasso for his "demoiselles d'Avignon" and would be a nice addition to your mask collection.

High:32 cm.

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