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Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

Democratic Republic of the CongoYaka (Aiacka, Bayaka) artist

Kholuka (initiation mask)

Wood, raffia

H. 76.2 cm (30")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1990.642

A circular or oval relief line surrounds the upper portion of the face and closes as it touches the nostrils.  Framing the face is a projecting wooden decoration that minimally appears as a visor, more fully as a bonnet-like oval, or completely encloses the face in a circle or square frame.  The mask's coiffure is a fabricated dome or cone-shaped construction made of woven raffia or cotton cloth stretched over an armature and painted.  Varieties of the head-piece include a central spire supporting horizontal disks that are flanked by antenna-like projections; a single or a series of squared or rounded projections; or one to three crests running from front to back of the head.