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Yaka Mask Mbalaa Cloth with Raffia African Art Gelb Collection

Regular Price: $225.00

Special Price: $162.00

Product #: 112588
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Title Yaka Mask Mbalaa Cloth with Raffia African Art Gelb Collection
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin DR Congo
People Northern Yaka
Materials Wood, pigment, cotton cloth, reeds, vegetable fibers
Approximate Age Mid to late 20th century
Dimensions Height: 18 Inches
Width: 11 Inches
Depth: 15 Inches
raffia skirt is approximately 12 inches long
Overall Condition fair
Damage/Repair tears in cloth headdress, some repaired. stains, repaired horn.


Provenance: From the collection of Howard Gelb, St. Paul, MN collector of African Art, who was also a businessman, lawyer, and philanthropist. Mr. Gelb died in 2015, at the age of 96. 

Additional Information: This mask comes from the Yaka people who live in the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Kwango region.  They are originated from Angola and were conquered by the Lunda in the late 17th or early 18th century. Their political structure is strongly influenced by the Lunda from whom most of the chiefs Mwata Yaav of Kasongo-Lunda are affiliated. Their religion and culture are closely related to those of the peoples from the northeastern of Angola and the eastern Kongo. They have in common the practice of circumcision rites and initiation of young boys, Nkhaanda (nkhanda, Mukhanda, Mukanda) with these peoples. Their art is rich and well-known in Western because of the masks such as this and also their various figures. They are "avid decorators" as one can see it through this mask and in a wide range of items such as their combs, whistles, pipes, neckrests, drums, beadworks, etc.


At the end of the circumcision and initiation rites of young boys, Nkhaanda, this Mbaala mask also known as kholuka, was worn by the elder among the young initiate to celebrate their new status. Mbaala mask is characterized by the superstructure on the top of the coiffure adorned with bright colors and surmounted by all human and animal figures as well as by scenes of a couple copulating. Mbaala masks depict sexual attributes and display sexual play and procreation. Sexuality and procreation are among the subjects taught to the initiate during their seclusion. Some Mbaala have been seen displaying a penis-like made of wood or other media emphasizing the virility of the new young initiates after their circumcision and meaning that these initiates are ready to get married and have children. They perform to entertain the crowd, but usually, when Mbaala performs everybody is embarrassed. That's one of the rare occasions where sexuality is publicly exposed. 


For further information and similar pieces see:


Bourgeois, Arthur P., 1985 THE YAKA AND SUKU, Iconography of religions VII, D, 1. Institute of religious iconography. State University Groningen, Leiden E. J. Brill,Plate XLVII