An exceptional “Ngaady a Mwaash” mask (Mweel)
The Bushong trace their origins back to the incestuous relationship and wedlock between the great ancestor Woot and his sister mweel “ngaady a mwaash”
.This fine mask represents one of the tree masks belonging to the royal family and with appeared during rituals concerning the sacred king, initiation
celebrations for boys and any other public ceremonies. The naturalistic face is painted with geometric patterns and diagonal stripes on the cheeks,
representing tears. The eyebrows, nose and mouth are covered by strips of fabric and decorated with glass beads, surmounted by an elaborate cloth
headdress decorated with cowrie shells glass beads.
Provenance: acquired from Kuba king N’boeupe Mabiintsh III and is part from the Royal treasury.
Kuba king N’boeupe Mabiintsh III
The Nyimi Mabiintsh III is fifty years old. He acquired the throne at the age of twenty.
As descendant of God the creator, the king is attributed with supernatural powers.
Due to his top position he is restricted by several constraints: He does not have the right to sit on the ground, and he cannot cross a cultivated field. Apart from his cook, no one has seen him eat. Moreover he never travels without him, and his personal cooking utensils.
It took me three weeks to photograph the Nyimi (King) of the Kuba in his royal apparel, the "bwantshy".
The outfit is made out of material stitched with beads and "cauris" (small shells used an money in Africa) and weighs 160lb. It takes more than two hours to dress the king and two days of spiritual preparation to be sufficiently purified in order to wear the outfit.
The weight and the heat of the bwantshy is such that it is impossible to wear it more than one hour. The preceding king had only worn it three times during his entire life.
A Luba ceremonial staff with female figure
The Luba Empire was characterized by centralized authority vested in a sacred king (mulopwe).
Numerous institutions existed to counter balance the absolute power of the king.
The best known of these institutions is the Bambudye society, whose members are responsible for remembering the history of the kingdom.
The Luba royalty incorporated religious elements into the justification for their rule, like the monarchies of Western Europe.
The legacy of the great empire is still recognizable in the region today, where local customs and art styles often reflect a strong Luba influence.
The Luba people live in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the provinces of Kasai and Shaba (Katanga).
The Luba, mainly Christian since conversions during colonial times have become an advantaged minority under the recent Kabila regimes first Laurent from 1996, then Joseph since January 2001, both of whom are Luba.
Women in the Luba society held a place of honor.
Besides filling important political positions such as councilors, advisers, ambassadors, and even chiefs, they were also believed to have enhanced spiritual powers.
The Luba are best known for their stools, divination bowls (mboko), beautifully carved bow stands, and memory boards (lukasa).
Ref no: 70
A Teke (Tsaay) disc-shaped mask with varied patina and raised ridge to reverse
Dimension 24.5cm by 29.5cm
Originally adorned with a ring of feathers and a collar of raffia fibre, this variety of mask was worn in acrobatic performances.
The mask is divided into two parts at the level of the eye slits–an upper half that protrudes slightly outward and a sunken lower half–yet the overall dynamic relief pattern disguises the two levels.
Thus, this mask relies on a set of graphic design elements to convey its identity.
It is certainly possible that the original prototypes for such masks were simply painted disks, as the mask bears a more "painterly" sensibility.
The raised motifs are variously named: designating a crocodile pattern on the forehead and a python or venomous insect pattern rising from the bottom and both dominated by large eyes that unite the two planes and various facial features with scarification or lunar crests arching along the edges.
The mask and its performance are said to have originated in the mid-nineteenth century with an individual named Moukassa a Touomo, following his apprenticeship in the south of Teke country from which he arrived "with empty hands."
However, Lehuard's study of forty-three Tsaye masks suggests a strong influence from Mbamba reliquary figures. (1972:12-36)
It is also interesting to note that with the exception of the brow ridge, this mask is almost perfectly flat with low relief carving.
This example is among the finest known; the iconographic elements are bold and primal, while their juxtaposition creates a unified design.
Ref no: 132
A fine Baule slingshot
In the west, one is likely to associate the slingshot with mischievous young boys.
In Africa, the same is true. Slingshots are carried by young boys for hunting birds and bats in the forest, one of the rare sources of protein in their diets.
However, in the forest, danger abounds.
These slings served not only to down the prey, but also to protect the boys from snakes, dangerous insects, and the occasional predator.
The slings are usually made by the father of the boy who may or may not be a sculptor by trade.
However, wealthy families mostly commissioned sculptors to carve slings for their boys.
These two factors explain the general discrepancies in the artistic quality of the slings.
Ref. Barakat Gallery
Ref no: 50
Native dancers of the "Ballets d'Afrique Noire", Dancing troop led by Mamadou Mansour Gueye. Real photo,
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