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African Art
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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
1969.106

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.

Geography: 
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Culture: 
Pende
Period: 
19th–20th century
Classification: 
Masks
Provenance: 

Harry A. Franklin Gallery, Los Angeles; Mr. William B. Jaffe (1904–1972) and Mrs. Evelyn Friede Jaffe (neé Annenberg, later Hall) (1911–2005), New York; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 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.