This type of mask is called a mbangu or “sickness mask,” which, according to the Central Pende who used it, represents sickness and weakness as a result of witchcraft and/or bad behavior. However, it is not necessary to be a “bad person” or to behave badly to be stricken with such maladies. This mask falls into the category of mbuya masks, which are used to represent different characters. This one, mbangu, represents a cursed man, someone who has been struck by sickness or has had deformities cast upon him by sorcerers. Although his face shows signs of nerve paralysis, features characteristic of the katundu style in the Pende region are still apparent: note the eyebrow line in the shape of an inverted “W”, the triangular nose, and pointed chin. White color pigments on the left side of the face, dark pigments with very nice patina on the right side. Beautiful braided hair with raffia fiber and probably animal hair.
H: 33 cm (1’ 1”)
Estimated age: 19th century Reported to have been collected before 1910
Provenance: Formerly part of a Belgian collection; Formerly part of a German collection; Austrian private collection