HEMBA MASKS, Congo


 HEMBA
Mask 5
11" high
$150

HEMBA
Mask 6
7.5" high
$200

HEMBA
Mask 7
6.5" high
$400
 

Photographs © Tim Hamill

HEMBA, MASKS, Congo

The extremely stylized chimpanzee masks are called mwisi gwa so'o a term that alludes to the "spirit-ivested object of the chimpanzee human" that inhabits the mask. The mwisi gwa so'o masqueraders wear a costume of aniumal skin, barkcloth and the hair of Colobis monkeys. Their raucous dances, performed at funeral and memorial services, reflect Hemba ideas about death and social chaos and stand in diametrical opposition to the otherwise ordered world of the living. (from African Masks from the Barbier-Mueller Collection by Hahner-Herzog, Kecskesi and Vajda.)

We have no reason to believe that any of these masks was actually ever used.

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