Suku Helmet Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood, pigments, fiber
height 18in (45.7cm)
Private Collection, Belgium
"During this period, adolescent boys are separated from the village and made to undergo a series of ordeals, including circumcision, designed to measure their strength and courage. These tests often culminate in the boys' symbolic death as children and rebirth as men. Among Yaka and Suku peoples, the conclusion of mukanda--coming to manhood rites--is accompanied by performances of kholuka masks. The imagery that surmounts these masks translates into visual form the lyrics of songs that emphasize gender differences. Figural representations of humans and animals ridicule women and celebrate male virility. Contemporary works reinforce generational continuity and male solidarity by incorporating the ashes of masks danced on the occasion of preceding mukanda." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, WEB, nd, 2013).
More commonly painted brightly white on the face, the present example has a dark-brown, tranquil face and was most likely used in initiation ceremonies to mark the transition of a boy into adult life.