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

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Salampasu Art

The Salampasu people live in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). They are grouped in a loose confederation of villages headed by chiefs. The Salampasu have a highly stratified society with initiation ceremonies playing vital roles in maintaining the social system. The Salampasu live mostly from hunting, but the women do some farming.


The major reason for mask making among the Salampasu was the Mungongo (Warrior) Society, a male-only organization. Members rose through the ranks of the Mungongo by purchasing a series of masks that were ranked in a hierarchy of importance. Earning the right to acquire and wear a mask involved performing specific deeds (not recorded) plus large payments of livestock, drink, and other material goods to the members of the society. Possessing many masks indicated wealth and knowledge (since a new owner purchased the esoteric knowledge associated with a particular mask).

Salampasu mask

Salampasu mask-UmfaMukinka Mask
Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)
Wood, copper, split cane, twine and traces of pigment
Partial gift of Owen D. Mort, Jr. for the Owen D. Mort, Jr. Collection of African Art, with additional funds from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
Museum # 1985.052.941

Three categories of masks were used for the various ceremonies of the Mungongo Society symbolizing the three levels of the society: hunters, warriors, and the chief. Fiber masks with cone-shaped headdresses represented the hunters. Next in importance came the painted wood masks called Kasangu representing the warriors. The Mukinka is the most important since it represented the chief.

The sharp pointed teeth on the mask reflect the custom of filing the teeth that was part of the initiation process for both boys and girls. It was designed to show their strength and discipline.

with thanks to the UMFA museum of fine arts in Utah

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The Tribal Arts of Africa

The Tribal Arts of Africa
Author: Jean-Baptiste Bacquart

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read also : Start ] Lega masks ] Kongo-Yombe-Bembe ] Luba- Lion king ] Teke ] [ Salampasu ] Tabwa ] Tchokwe Lunda ] Yaka-tribe ] Kuba ]

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