A large Kakungu mask, Nkanu peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
wood, paint, cloth and raffia.
Pace Gallery, New York, 1987
According to Van Damme, "The largest mask created by the Nkanu is Kakungu, an important mask form also made by the Yaka and Suku. Together, the face and headdress have an average height of about seventy centimeters.
Kakungu masks sometimes have exaggerated facial features. The physiognomy of the mask is meant to impress the audience and inspire fear through its size, its empty eye sockets or shriveled eyeballs, and its exaggeratedly round cheeks and red face. The latter two are symptoms of severe malnutrition, which suggests to the initiates that the nkanda enclosure is a place of hunger. The gaping eye sockets of Kakungu warn those who break initiation rules that they will be struck blind.
The most striking element of the Kakungu mask is certainly its large, bulbous headdress. Reportedly, it represents a giant termite hill, with the sun rising on one side and setting on the other" (Van Damme, 2001:73).
cf. Van Damme, 2001, figure 23 for a similar superb example of this rare mask.