|Title||Suku Helmet Mask with Animal Congo African Art|
|Type of Object||Helmet Mask|
|Country of Origin||DR Congo|
|Materials||Wood. pigment, paint, raffia fiber|
|Approximate Age||20th century|
|Dimensions||Height: 13 Inches
Width: 10 Inches
Depth: 11 Inches
|Overall Condition||Fair to Good. Most of our pieces have spent decades on at least two continents, and have been treasured by several owners. Small splits, scrapes and cracks are a normal part of their patina attesting to their age and extensive use. We examine each piece carefully when we receive it and report any damage we find in our listings. Please look carefully at the pictures which may also reveal condition and damage.|
|Damage/Repair||Missing horn on animal head on top, worn patina on face, chipped ear, wear|
Additional Information: The Suku, whose art closely parallels that of their more populous neighbors, the Yaka, number around 80,000. They extensively use masks to promote success in hunting and to venerate ancestors. The helmet mask presented here, with its white face and blue vertical "scarification" marks, probably originates from the northern part of Suku territory, as the southern artists use quite different color schemes.
In many cases, Suku helmet masks are surmounted by animal and human figures. Usually the Suku mask may be differentiated from other masks by the use of white paint for the face, as well as by the presence of blue pigments for the eyelids, and vertical scars beneath the eyes. Some, like the one illustrated, are carved with a raised hair crest, carefully worked with incised circles. The strongly carved face would have been painted white at some point in the past, with small vertical markings under the eye in blue or black. The detailing of the eyes and the line that separates the face and hair are evidence the work of a skilled carver. A large grass ruff would have been attached to the lower part of the mask producing a startling visual effect. This style of mask, known as Hemba, comes from the Kasongo Lunda zone of the Suku, close to another major and influential people the Holo. Each Hemba has it own name deriving from the character it plays during the performances. "Hemba" masks are reportedly images of deceased elders, notably chiefs of the maternal lineage. They are used mainly used during the initiation of young boys (mukanda) where their main role is to educate, entertain, and celebrate the new adults. They are also associated to other rituals. They dance to insure luck in the hunt, to punish criminals, and for healing ceremonies.
For more information and fine examples, see Kerchache, et al, "Art of Africa".