Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

Democratic Republic of the CongoYaka (Aiacka, Bayaka) peoples

Kholuka (initiation mask)

Wood, vegetable fiber, split cane, feathers, raffia

H. 66.04 cm (26”)

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1990.641

The kholuka mask is commonly distinguished by the puppet-like imagery surmounting the mask.  Scenes feature sexuality and procreation in both human and animal models or are substituted by items associated with domestic activity.  On others, mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles peer toward the facial portion of the mask.  Such imagery partakes of motifs sung by the kholuka performer and song leaders in the coming-out festivities.  Sexual differences are celebrated and female attributes are ridiculed; allusions are made to non-Yaka ways, external pressures, and deviant behavior.