Kuba Helmet Mask, Bushoong, Central Congo Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo
height (without beard) 14 1/4in (36.2cm)
Wood, glass beads, skin/hide, cloth, hair, metal, shell
Henri Kamer, New York and Paris
Private Collection, New York
Carved wooden helmet mask of hollowed form with a large domed forehead, large prominent pierced nose, closed eyes and oval mouth; large carved ears and a carved diamond motif on face overall, metal sheeting (copper alloy) on forehead, facial cheeks and mouth, the top of the head with cloth and cowrie shell, the cloth extending down sides of head and back areas. Small red and white beads on forehead, larger black, white & blue beads on top of head, over tops of eyes, across face, down nose and around the mouth, black, blue and white beads in lattice motif on back of head; red beads, black beads & cowries shells along bottom of face. Cowrie shells on sides of head and hair remnants on top of head, the beard of cloth, cowrie and animal hide/skin; dark brown patina overall.
Cf. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass., accession no. 1994.414
"Kuba mythology revolves around three figures, each represented by a masquerade character: Woot, the creator and founder of the ruling dynasty; Woot's spouse; and Bwoom. Bwoom's specific identity varies according to different versions of the myth. He may represent the king's younger brother, a person of Twa descent, or a commoner. Embodying a subversive force within the royal court, the Bwoom masquerade is often performed in conflict with the masked figure representing Woot." (Brooklyn Museum, New York)