Collections: Arts of Africa: Hemba Mask

  • 1st Floor
    Arts of Africa, Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden
  • 2nd Floor
    Arts of Asia and the Islamic World
  • 3rd Floor
    Egyptian Art, European Paintings
  • 4th Floor
    Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
  • 5th Floor
    Luce Center for American Art

On View: Figure of a Man Holding a Crocodile

Nothing is known for certain about the original use of stone carvings such as this one, since the area in which they were made suffered seve...

Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

Hiroshige's 118 woodblock landscape and genre scenes of mid-nineteenth-century Tokyo, is one of the greatest achievements of Japanese art.

    On View: God the Father with Four Angels and the Dove of the Holy Spirit

    The artist, born and trained in Padua, reveals his Northern Italian origin in his intensely linear style, focused in particular on the decor...


    Want to add this object to a set? Please join the Posse, or log in.


    85.143_SL1.jpg CUR.85.143_print_front_bw.jpg CUR.85.143_print_side_bw.jpg CUR.85.143_print_threequarter_bw.jpg

    Hemba Mask

    Among the Suku of the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, masks plays crucial role in protecting boys during initiation, the vulnerable period between boyhood and manhood. The power contained in Hemba masks may be directed against those who disrespect or attempt to harm the initiates, or it may be used to cure illness and promote prosperity. Often brightly colored and surmounted by animal figures, these masks depict past elders and lineage heads—people who command a great deal of respect and who make important decisions affecting the community.

    • Cultures: Suku; possibly Kwese
    • Medium: Wood, raffia, pigment
    • Geographical Locations:
    • Dates: 20th century
    • Dimensions: 26 x 21 in. (66.0 x 53.3 cm) height of head and animal: 16 1/2 in. (41.9 cm) width of head: 9 in. (22.9 cm)  (show scale)
    • Collections:Arts of Africa
    • Museum Location: This item is not on view
    • Accession Number: 85.143
    • Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Abbott A. Lippman
    • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
    • Caption: Suku. Hemba Mask, 20th century. Wood, raffia, pigment, 26 x 21 in. (66.0 x 53.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Abbott A. Lippman, 85.143. Creative Commons-BY
    • Image: overall, 85.143_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    • Catalogue Description: Painted wood mask, surmounted by 4-legged animal, raffia fringe attached to holes at base of mask. Face tilted slightly backwards; mouth is open with upper row of jagged teeth; protruding almond-shaped eyes and painted eyebrows; three vertical paint marks under each eye; each quadrant of face marked by predominant color - green white, blue, red-brown; traces of green-yellow paint on right side. Helmet composed of central crest with two overlapping layers on each side: surmounted by 4-legged animal painted green with horn on top of head. Large split on right side, extending from base to top of head. CONDITION: Blue paint flaking on upper right side of face. Crack on left side of face extends upward from base. Piece missing from left side of helmet; caked substance along right side dry and flaking.
    • Record Completeness: Best (83%)
    advanced 110,582 records currently online.

    Separate each tag with a space: painting portrait.

    Or join words together in one tag by using double quotes: "Brooklyn Museum."

    Please review the comment guidelines before posting.

    Before you comment...

    We get a lot of comments, so before you post yours, check to see if your issue is addressed by one of the questions below. Click on a question to see our answer:

    Why are some objects not on view?

    The Museum’s permanent collections are very large and only a fraction of these can be on exhibition at any given time. Sometimes works are lent to other museums for special exhibitions; sometimes they are in the conservation laboratory for study or maintenance. Certain types of objects, such as watercolors, textiles, and photographs, are sensitive to light and begin to fade if they are exposed for too long, so their exhibition time is limited. Finally, as large as the Museum is, there is not enough room to display everything in the collections. In order to present our best works, collections are rotated periodically.

    How do I find out how much an object in the Brooklyn Museum collections is worth?

    The Museum does not disclose the monetary values of objects in its collections.

    Can you tell me the value of an artwork that I own?

    The Museum does not provide monetary appraisals. To determine the value of an object or to find an appraiser, you may contact the Art Dealers Association of America or the American Society of Appraisers.

    I own a similar object. Can you tell me more about it?

    Please submit via e-mail a photograph of the object you own and as much information about it as you can, and we will provide any additional information we are able to find. Please note that research in our files is a lengthy process, and you may not have a response for some time.

    How would I go about lending or gifting a work to the Museum or seeing if the Museum is interested in purchasing a work that I own?

    Please submit via e-mail a photograph of the object you would like us to consider, as well as all of the information you have about it, and your offer will be forwarded to the appropriate curator. The Brooklyn Museum collections are very rich, and we have many works that are not currently on exhibition; because of this, and because storage space is limited, we are very selective about adding works. However, the collection has become what it is today through the generosity of the public, and we continue to be grateful for this generosity, which can still lead to exciting new acquisitions.

    How can I get a reproduction of a work in your collection?

    Please see the Museum’s information on Image Services.

    How can I show my work to someone at the Museum or be considered for an exhibition?

    Please see the Museum’s Artist Submission Guidelines.

    Why do many objects not have photographs and/or complete descriptions?

    The Museum's collection is very large, and we are constantly in the process of adding photographs and descriptions to works that do not currently have them, or replacing photographs that have deteriorated beyond use and descriptions that are minimal or out of date. This is a long and expensive process that takes time.

    How can I find a conservator or get advice on how to treat my artwork?

    Please visit the American Institute for Conservation, which has a feature on how to find a conservator.

    I have a comment or question which is not included in this list.

    Join the posse or log in to work with our collections. Your tags, comments and favorites will display with your attribution.