Pende mask

Archives | Democratic Republic of the Congo

Pende mask

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mbuya ya mbangu mask for disease prevention

Carved wood and pigments
Early 20th century
Height: 9 in. (23 cm)

Provenance:
Ex collection Alexander-Suggs Gallery, St.Louis, Missouri
Ex collection William W. Brill (1918-2003), New York, (#849)
acquired from the above on 22 December 1979
Ex Sotheby’s New York, “The William W.Brill Collection of African Art”,
17 November 2006, lot 78
Ex collection Galerie Flak, Paris
Ex private collection, Paris since 2007

Published: Face à Face, Masques secrets, visages révélés, Paris, Galerie Flak, 2007, p. 13
Sold
As Frank Herreman notes in "To Cure and Protect: Sickness and Health in African Art", this mask, named mbangu, is the representation of a highly regarded hunter who has been stricken with facial paralysis. This mask demonstrates how even the most esteemed and upright member of the community can unexpectedly be afflicted with sickness. In this case, the Pende believe that the individual is a victim of sorcery, bewitched by a rival who jealously inflicted him with disease.
These masks teach Pende audiences about the rewards of good behavior and of the pitfalls of those who are morally flawed. The black and white painting refers to the scars of someone who fell into fire due to epilepsy or some other medical condition.

Publication

“Primitivism” in 20th Century Art”, W. Rubin, 1984

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