UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum


20th c.
Bashilele peoples, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood, fiber, cowrie shells, beads, canvas, raffia,
11 x 7 x 9 inches
Gift of Gilbert and Jean Jackson,

This mask exhibits Lele stylistic traits including a broad face, convex, almond-shaped eyes with highly arched eyebrows and a narrow triangular nose. The added cowrie shells and fiber attachments give this flat mask an enlarged three-dimensional appearance. Such masks usually appear at the funerals of chiefs and elders but are also used in annual performances that celebrate and teach the history of Lele origins and migrations. In those performances, they are associated with the founding clans of the communities, who have superior status to the members of clans that arrived later.