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Kuba Goggle Eyed Mask Pwoo Itok Congo African Art

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Brand Unbranded
Title Kuba Goggle Eyed Mask Pwoo Itok Congo African Art
Type of Object Mask
Country of Origin Democratic Republic of the Congo
People Kuba
Materials Wood, pigment, shells, glass, raffia
Approximate Age Early 20th century
Height (in) 22
Width (in) 10
Depth (in) 11.5
Dimensions Height: 22 Inches
Width: 10 Inches
Depth: 11.5 Inches
38 inches tall on base; base is 9 x 9 inches
Overall Condition poor
Damage/Repair severely distressed surface with large hole in top of head. cracks and fading color

Additional Information: This face mask belongs to the category of Pwoo Itok and Isheen Maal masks of the Kuba-Ngeende. It shows features very particular to this type of masks: a protruding forehead , cone eyes surrounded by holes. Multiple holes in the surrounding areas of the eyes evoke the chameleon which can see in all directions. The face has a large triangular nose. The surface of the mask is severly weathered, but some pigments still show through. Equipped with a custom base for immediate display.

Pwoo Itok and Isheen Maal (also called Pwoom Itok and ishyeenmaal or Shene Malula)This type of mask is found among the Kuba-Bushoong, the Shoowa, and the Ngeende peoples. According to some sources, Isheen Maal was inspired by Pwoo Itok. In any case, the difference between the two is hard to detect and in the literature they are seen as the same mask, with different names depending on where the mask was found. Most likely the Shoowa use the Pwoo Itok while the Kuba prefer the term Isheen Maal. Such masks were used as a dancing mask during the initiation of young men and among the Bushoong it was worn by members of the Batende, a secret regulatory society which had among its duties the apprehension of criminals.

The Ngeende group claims to be descended from Ishweemy, one of the nine sons of Woot, the primordial founder of the Kuba Kingdom. Accordingly, the Ngeende are of special importance to the Kuba Kingdom and designated as the holders of the Kuba official charms, Muyum. They share not only a common history but also the same culture and traditions as the Kuba. Even today, they still send representatives to the Kuba-Bushoong court. The Ngeende live in small villages led by chiefs who rule with the council of elders. Understandably, their art has many congruities with the art of the Kuba-Bushoong, the Ngoongo, the Kete, and all of them produce masks. It is said that some Kuba masks such as this have been made by the Ngeende. The Ngeende masks tell the story of Woot and other important characters in the foundation of Kuba kingdom. These include Bongo (Mbwoom), Mukenge which is a variant of Moshambooy, Shala-Mushampoji, and another variant of Moshambooy without the elephant trunk, Ishendemala with goggle eyes, and Nyibita with a very elongated face. These masks were used at the funerals of notabilities and at initiation ceremonies.

Recommended reading:

-Meurant, George, 1986, ART KUBA, Credit Communal, Brussels
-Mack, John, EMILE TORDAY AND ART OF THE CONGO 1900-1909, University of Washington Press, Seattle
-Cornet, Joseph, 1982, ART ROYAL KUBA, Edizioni Sipiel, Milano
-Cornet, Joseph, 1978, A Survey of Zairian Art-The Bronson Collection, North Carolina Museum of Art.

CT 9/17