Art and Initiation Among the Yaka and Suku

by Arthur Bourgeois
Professor Emeritus, Governors State University

The newly circumcised remain naked in the open, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976. Photo by Arthur Bourgeois.

As a mode of abstraction, the masked personage occupies a liminal position taking on attributes of many categories.  Within initiation, masks mediate and unify basic human values and assert community cooperation.  Yet the masked event is not conducted to impart specific information rather it actualizes an upheaval and re-centers daily life from that of a self-centered existence of individuals to one of collective experience.