January 25, 2006

The Mask Seller


Bruce is a mask seller. He used to work for the Art Museum that shut down during civil strifes, roaming the country far and wide to find nice antique pieces for display. All the art pieces have now been locked in storage, occsionally plundered by various people who sell them for money. Bruce now works elsewhere but still keeps a keen eye out for old masks and figurines from visitors coming from the villages. He is extremely knowledgeable about Congolese art and honest (he doesn't give you the usual bullshit "oh this is a very old mask belonging to an ancient prince").


The masks that now hang in my house:
(1) 2nd from left--Katoyo Mask
This is mask that one would wear to increase production. (in farming, fishing, huntint...). In order to increase yields of your product, you would wear it and dance in a special ceremony. This mask is probably around 40 years old. It is from the Tshokwe people from Bandundu
(2) 3rd from left--Poh Mask
There are two kinds of poh masks. The first one represents a young girl (mwana poh)--you will destinguish her by her teeth. The second type is that of an experienced and mature woman (poh). This one has known divorce or lost her husband. She is recognizable by her lack of teeth and by the lost smile on her face (how depressing!) to signal deep concentration and thought-process. In general in poh masks, the more elaborate the head-dress is--pieces of cloth, money, animal fur or leather, medals of saints weaved in the hair--the more appreciated it is. This mask dates from the colonial period, as evidenced by the Belgian coins in the hair. The mask is from the Tshowke people of Kwango in South Bandundu
(3) Small Grey Mask in Front--Rega Mask
This "Rega" mask that is carved to confer protection on the owner. It is said that the owner will comission such a mask if he/she is planning on doing a bad deed and needs the extra protection. The existence of such a mask in your possession is to be hidden as it would surely mark you in the village. Therefore, the smaller the mask is, the easier it is to hide. The smaller the mask, the higher the price. It is from Kindu in Maniema

22 comments:

Victoria said...

Those are amazing.
Now I've just got to ask... why would you need a Rega mask? ;)

TheMalau said...

I agree with Victoria... I mean why the Rega mask, oo7? Who are you trying to haunt? Have you been already that influenced by our kindoki practices ;)?

Ammo said...

Same question as Vicky :)

007 in Africa said...

Hum, you know I never really thought about it. Do you think I may actually be bringing back-luck upon myself for having such a mask? Oh god I hope not...

TheMalau said...

Well you don't want to ask me that, do you? :) You should be fine, I am sure. And you should go comment on that post by Candide you told us about. It's working now.

Magali said...

Were those pictures taken at your place? It looks really nice!

My mom banned all the non "made-for-tourists" masks my father would bring back from trips bc she thought they might bring bad karma into our house...

PS - have you seen that RJH's picture has changed - just on her blog, not on her profile!

Victoria said...

Her picture? What do you mean? It looks the same to me...

Carl said...

Will that Rega mask work on a thunderstorm?

Steve in Wisconsin said...

Awesome masks, Double-oh! I envy you being in a place where you can acquire this stuff. (You can get those masks out of the country, right?)

Beaver said...

Great Post! I have been trying to by a mask for Dave in every country I am going, though in PK I am so far out of luck :)

Maybe I will find something worthwhile to replace the mask though.

Séverine said...

Ahhh, I just discovered your blog... You make me want to go back!!!!! hahaha
I think from reading about the river, that you live in Kinshasa? which area?
I used to live in Binza then in the Gombe, and boy do your posts make me nostalgic!!!!
Keep it coming!!!!!! It's great!!!

007 in Africa said...

Vick, Mag and the Malau, I'm really hoping that the Rega mask won't bring bad luck but I bought it in good faith from a reliable, knowledgeable seller so I trust that it's safe :)

Carl, somehow, I don't think the mask will do any good in a thunderstorm. But I'd pay a million bucks to see you wear it while you fly!

Steve, haven't heard from you in a while! Yes, I can take them out but need to obtain an art permit prior to leaving the country.

Beaver, Pakistan doesn't have masks? Somehow it seems more of an African thing doesn't it?

Severine, welcome!

Ammo said...

I'd pay you a million bucks to fly in Carl's plane as he's flying with the mask on :)

Carl said...

Ok, I'll do it. Just pick one that will fit under headset; but I want something out of this deal.

Black River Eagle said...

Your collection of traditional Congolese masks and statuettes are just precious and obviously very valuable. What is also great is to be introduced to Bruce (the art curator) as he has such a wonderful smile and real knowledge of the country's arts and crafts. Does he sell or export works like these for a living or can he start doing so with a little assistance?

If you ever get hard-up for some cash and decide to sell your Congo Art Collection please call this number: 1-800-MONEY's-NO-PROBLEM

BTW: I'd be careful with that little "Rega" mask. Bad Voodoo when you don't handle it properly.

I have a similar mask from Nigeria and once I found out what it (really) is used for I carefully stored it away in my cellar years ago for safekeeping and to keep myself safe from evil spirits. Went to check on it last year and guess what? IT'S GONE!!!

Remember the film "Relic" based on the novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child? I'm scared to death the thing is gonna jump out at me someday, serious!

P.S. Carl the Pilot should get a "special" mask or statuette for the control panel of his aircraft. When a bad thunderstorm approaches while in-flight, just throw the thing out the window and let it trail the the bird on a long non-conducting rope (add weights). Sucks lightning and turbulence away from the aircraft just like magic and the drag is negligable. Honest. Try it.

Black River Eagle said...

P.S.S. to Beaver:

Pakistan has (or had) masks in their ancient (Bhuddist) tribal cultures and traditions. Checkout info on the Indus Valley civilization (circa 3000 B.C.) and Gandharan civilization (500 B.C.?). Alexander the Great marched from Greece to conquer the Gandharans and he was definately into collecting masks and stautes and stuff during his road trips. I think that masks went out-of-style in Pakistan once the Muslim influence began to take hold in the region about a 1000 years ago.

O.K. I'm gone...:-)

007 in Africa said...

Guys, guys, I'm happy about all the comments but enough already about the mask speculations! I would hate to get rid of it, it's so cool--do you think I should get a witch doctor to proclame it safe? I swear I've been eyeing it for the last two days, wondering, wondering...

Carl, I'm flying you guys in February. How about I bring my mask, you wear it, I take a picture with my camera and I post it on my blog? Instant celebrity!

BRE you are really freaking me out about the Nigerian mask. If my Rega mask knows what's good for it, it'll decide to stick around and treat me right. 1-800-MONEY's-NO-PROBLEM...Does that mean that you can finance a mini-Congo museum?

Beaver, good luck finding circa 3000 B.C. and 500 B.C. masks for an affordable price :)

Carl said...

You bring the mask. You bring the camera and I'll supply the fool who will wear the mask. Couldn't any less dignified the gorilla head I used to wear when I was an airline pilot.

Black River Eagle said...

O.K., we (the Boyz) are sorry. Maybe I just misplaced the Nigerian mask in the cellar and it didn't just disappear on its own...:-) I'll look again.

I was serious about my question re: Bruce the mask expert. If he is interested in exporting high-quality handcrafted arts and crafts from the D.R. Congo, there is a serious market for such items worldwide. I have some experience in this area if he would be interested in communicating with me about it. Let me know by email (see my blog) when you find the time.

Congogirl said...

Hey I recognize that nice pink and green cloth in the background! And the furniture looks suspiciously familiar -- Kind of weird, that's actually my old apartment. Talk about nostalgia, Severine has no idea :)

I have one mask, I wish I knew what kind it was. Bokani gave it to me. It looks like a Poh mask based on your descriptions.

TheMalau said...

007 I am sure everything will be fine with your mask.

I am all jealous, you are all becoming more Congolese than my crazy selg!

Serviced Apartments Resident said...

That's quite a collection he's accumulated there, I love all the different characters on those faces!