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African Art

Mask (Mbuya)

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood, pigment, and fiber

15 × 14 × 9 in. (38.1 × 35.56 × 22.86 cm)
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. William B. Jaffe

This mask would have been danced by a man, but its harmonious feminine features suggest that it may be a Gabuku Mbuya, a caricature of an enticing but vain young woman. Mbuya masks are associated with male circumcision rites. Most Mbuya depict a generalized village character (such as a prostitute or an elderly bachelor) or a prominent member of the community (such as a ruler or a palm-wine tapster). It is usually impossible, however, to determine the identity of a Pende mask without seeing it used in performance, as Pende mask forms are very similar but their associated dances are specific to each masquerade type.

Made in Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
19th–20th century

Gift of Mr. & Mrs. William B. Jaffe to Yale University Art Gallery in 1969

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.