Global Art & Artifacts

Helmet Mask. Suku or Basuku People. Rite of Passage. Kholuka. DNC / Zaire. Africa

Click the photo above for a larger version and more pictures

 

Suku people have lived in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formally Zaire) since the 16th Century. Their economic source is farming but occasionally join in communal hunts.

 

Suku’s are known for their large carved figures (e.g. fertility figures, crouching fetish figures, ancestral statues and statues that personify evil spirits).

 

This mask was specifically carved and used/worn in ceremonies of male adolescent’s transition into adult life (aka Mukanda). During the initiation period – which might last a year or more – adolescent boys are separated from the village and made to undergo a series of ordeals, including circumcision, centered around testing strength and courage. These tests often culminate in symbolic death… and a rebirth into adulthood. Kholuka masks were created for this ceremony. Human faces, animals, birds, fish and reptiles are incorporated into these custom masks along with lyrics of songs that aid in the translation of the mask design to songs that emphasize gender differences…. and not in a respectful way. It’s a guy thing for them and they only want to celebrate their strength and virility.

 

This specific Suku helmet mask has seen many ceremonies. As most masks depict a face with some totemic animal on top, this mask shows the head of a mammal, most likely a representation of a successful hunt. That fact alone makes this mask rare . . . not to mention the good condition, the use of raffia and its age.

 

The raffia was likely replaces or added sometime later.

 

Acquired from a gallery in Florida after being sold by an avid collector of masks and statues from the neighboring Yaka people (along the Wamba River). I was told that he possessed it for at least 20 years. Based on the pigment loss and the use of raffia, I would guess the mask age is circa 1960 – 1970…. or earlier.

 

For the Serious Collector of rare masks. Stand is not included.

 

This special mask as been sold. Thank you C.R. !

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