Kuba Art and Rule

by Joseph Aurélien Cornet (1919 - 2004)
Formerly Institute for National Museums of Congo

Kuba peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo, dance of bwoom mask. Photo by Angelo Turconi.

The bwoom mask is a helmet mask. The mask is blind, usually carved mostly of wood, and the performer can bend back his head so that he can make out the limits of the dance area; in fact many performers see out through the nose. He also wears a tunic—the only surviving example that is old—but freshly cut leaves are attached to his belt. This mask, of superior beauty with regard to shapes and proportions, replaces the mask called Lwoop lambwoom, which was carved at the beginning of the 19th century and masterfully restored a hundred years later by an artist (it is in the museum in Kinshasa). This mask is made of leather, a material reserved for the use of the king. The masks beard is decorated with cowries, also only for the king. The neck is particularly rich in cowries and beads, which is customary for masks of this type.