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Bembe Artist, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Helmet Mask

Masquerade, Music, and Performance

The diversity of creative expression in African masks and masquerades is limitless and unparalleled. A Bembe mask in the High Museum’s collection has two pairs of eyes, inspired by owls’ eyes, each painted white to indicate spiritual insight. The Belgian government banned the Alunga Association, a men’s organization that staged Bembe masquerade performances, in 1947 because it represented a challenge to colonial rule.