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Mask (Nganga Diphomba)

Arts of Africa

This mask was worn by a Yombe nganga, or ritual expert. Its white color probably represents the spirit of a deceased person. White was also associated with justice, order, truth, invulnerability, and insight—all virtues associated with the nganga.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment, kaolin
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 10 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 5 1/2 in. (27.6 x 19.7 x 14 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
PROVENANCE Prior to 1922, provenance not yet documented; by 1922, acquired by François Poncelet of Brussels, Belgium; 1922, purchased in Brussels from François Poncelet by Stewart Culin for the Brooklyn Museum.
Provenance FAQ
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Soft wood, anatomically natural mask of an expressive face with openings for almond-shaped eyes and a mouth with deliberately filed teeth; ears have been carved in place. It appears that the front of the face was once entirely covered with white pigment, but presently much is missing. There is a strong area of red-brown pigment across the top of the forehead and at the sides of the mask. The lips are painted blue, but much of the pigment there is lost, especially on the upper lip. The eyebrows were originally denoted by carved lines and filled-in blue and black pigment. There are remnants of pigment in the proper left eyebrow but only tiny traces of blue on the proper right eyebrow. The hair area, in general, is uniformly covered in black pigment. There are losses, however, and the color varies from matte to shiny. The mask contains some material losses on the edges. Within the mask are nicks and scratches overall. The mask is in fair condition.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Yombe. Mask (Nganga Diphomba), 19th century. Wood, pigment, kaolin, 10 7/8 x 7 3/4 x 5 1/2 in. (27.6 x 19.7 x 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.224. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 22.224_PS2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 22.224_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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