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Female Face Mask (Mbuya ya Mukhetu)

A work made of wood, pigment, and raffia.

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  • A work made of wood, pigment, and raffia.
  • Earthenware dish with a central decoration of a brick-red bird. Band on the rim consists of black-haired busts with letters "R" and "W" in-between them.
  • Earthenware caudle cup decorated with a chest-high portrait of a man in a crown and regalia flanked by two leaved branches and surmounted by the letter "C" on the left, and "R" on the right.


Early/mid–20th century


Central Pende
Bandundu region, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central Africa

About this artwork

Since the mid-20th century Pende masquerades have mainly been organized for entertainment, but they were previously charged with fostering communion between the living and the dead. Such performances occurred when the millet was sowed or harvested or when epidemics threatened the community. This female mask is adorned with a wig of small raffia braids. The maker has also evoked the local practice of beautifying the skin with a mixture of camwood powder and oil.


On View, Gallery 137


Arts of Africa




Female Face Mask (Mbuya ya Mukhetu)


Democratic Republic of the Congo (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Wood, pigment, and raffia


29.2 × 36.2 cm (11 1/2 × 14 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Neal Ball in honor of Richard Townsend

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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