Suku Helmet Mask. Basuku People. Rite of Passage. Kholuka. DNC / Zaire. Africa
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. It is common to have a totemic animal perched on the top of a human head. Also, typical is the open mouth with teeth exposed. In my opinion there is something very special about this helmet mask. It reminds me of a fierce warrior’s helmet with the scarification and oversized eye lids.
At one time, an apron of fiber / raffia surrounded the base.
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 general good condition, I would guess the age is circa 1970s.
For the Serious Collector of rare masks. Stand not included.