Collections: Arts of Africa: Mwaash aMbooy Mask

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    On View: Male Figure (Waka Sran)

    This figure most likely embodies a "spirit spouse"—the husband or wife every person is said to have had before birth. Through dreams, ...


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    22.1582_SL1.jpg 22.1582_threequarter_SL1.jpg 22.1582_front_bw.jpg 22.1582_side_bw.jpg 22.1582_back_bw.jpg 22.1582_threequarter_left_bw.jpg

    Mwaash aMbooy Mask

    Although art has historically glorified the powerful, it can also be a means of communication and expression for those without power. These Congolese works represent opposite ends of the social spectrum.

    The mwaash aMbooy mask is emblematic of royal power and prestige for the Kuba kingdom of the central Congo. It represents Woot, the founding hero from whom the Kuba trace their descent, and is worn only by the king (nyim) or by local chiefs. In both its dance and as a sculpture, it is a vision of gravity and composure.

    The contemporary portraits by Aimé Mpane, in turn, depict the struggles of those without access to power. They show ordinary citizens of Kinshasa, along with representations of their fears and desires. The artist carves these images from plywood, turning two-dimensional surfaces into works filled with light and shadow (suggesting both presence and absence) that animate the stories of the dispossessed.

    This text refers to these objects: ' 22.1582; 2012.47a-m

    • Culture: Kuba (Bushoong subgroup)
    • Medium: Hide, paint, plant fibers, textile, shell, glass, wood, hair, feathers
    • Place Made: West Kasai Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Dates: late 19th or early 20th century
    • Dimensions: 22 x 20 x 18 in. (55.9 x 50.8 x 45.7 cm)  (show scale)
    • Collections:Arts of Africa
    • Museum Location: This item is on view in Double Take Installation, East Gallery, 1st Floor
    • Exhibitions:
    • Accession Number: 22.1582
    • Credit Line: Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
    • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
    • Caption: Kuba (Bushoong subgroup). Mwaash aMbooy Mask, late 19th or early 20th century. Hide, paint, plant fibers, textile, shell, glass, wood, hair, feathers, 22 x 20 x 18 in. (55.9 x 50.8 x 45.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.1582. Creative Commons-BY
    • Image: side, 22.1582_side_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    • Catalogue Description: Mask of thin parchment, painted. Elaborately trimmed with shell and hair decoration. Shell eyes. The surface is highly decorative, composed of intricately painted geometric designs and geometrically arranged cowrie shells and beads. One feature, a long strip of beaded decoration extending from the bridge of the nose to the chin is present. Emphasis placed on 2 dimensional surface quality and elaborate polychromy. Condition: Headdress worn and torn.
    • Record Completeness: Best (91%)
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