Initiation

By Christopher D. Roy
University of Iowa

Democratic Republic of the CongoLwalwa (Lwalu) peoples

Mvondo (mask)

Wood

H. 29.5 cm (11.5")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.525

Art is commonly used in initiation to communicate visually the ideals of the group, to illustrate the rules for the moral conduct of life that initiated adults must obey, and to represent visually the spiritual beings that play roles in the history of the people and that protect the people or group from malevolent forces.  These objects may be secret, and are shown only to those who have earned the right to see them, or they may be public, visible to everyone in the community, but in the latter case their interpretation and true meanings are kept very secret. This male mask from the Lwalwa people was used in the initiation and circumcision and was intended to pacify the spirits of human victims required for entrance into the initiation society.