The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

Initiates with their guardians on route to bathe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois.

In the series of paired dance masks among the northern Yaka, the most significant as mask-charms are the first and last of this series, namely kambaandzya and kholukaKambaandzya is constructed of woven raffia on a wooden armature in the form of a cap bearing an oblong, frontal brim, which mounts upwards and presents a small oval head at its base.  Masks of lesser rank that follow kambaandzya's appearance perform in pairs.  They are known in the north as tsekedi, myondo, and ndeemba.  In form, they are less elaborated versions of the lone kholuka mask that follows them.  The facial portion of this variety of mask is boldly carved with bulging or stalk-like eyes, prominent or upturned nose, and gaping mouth with bared teeth.