Bena Lulua Helmet Mask. Luba Empire. Kalamba. Congo / Zaire
The Lulua tribes – aka as Bena Lulua – migrated from western Africa in the 17th Century and found their home in the southern part of Zaire (aka Democratic Republic of Congo). They formed small chiefdoms and their social structure was based on a caste system. Their village chiefs were tasked with ensuring juridical, political and social cohesion . . . kind of a mediator with clout.
Lulua art has been historically known for its complex scarifications… more so prior to 1888. But after 1920, these patterns came roaring back both in statues and masks.
So what’s the deal with scarifications? Well, first, it is a male thing. Second, it represented protection . . . as in warrior scars.
In the last century these masks were created for funeral ceremonies. The large eyes and cheek carvings vary widely. But the pointed tufts of hair and the horns projecting from the face symbolize power. That power comes from the Kalamba, a judge and war leader from the time of their tribal origins.
Quite rare primarily because of the age (circa early 1950s) and excellent condition. Acquired from a 60-year-old collection and housed in a climate controlled environment. Thus, the condition.
Stand not included.