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.
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
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
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
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Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart
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