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African Art

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Artwork Details


Pende Artist (Western), Democratic Republic of the Congo


Late nineteenth–early twentieth century


Great blue turaco feathers, fiber, and wood

Accession #



27 x 32 x 15 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 401


While masks made of wood are well represented in Western museum collections, in Africa many masks have little or no wooden elements. This fiber and feather mask known as Gitenga Munganji was worn during initiations of Pende males into Mukanda, an organization governed exclusively by men. Masks of this type appeared like fireworks at the end of the ceremonies, to celebrate the participant’s successful graduation from the initiation school. While used within a specifically male context, the passage into adulthood that initiation rites invoke ultimately depends on the blessings of women and female ancestors in Pende communities, which are matrilineal. To be “Pende” and to hold official titles, men must be able to accurately recite their maternal ancestors.


Fred and Rita Richman Collection

Image Copyright

Photo by Peter Harholdt