An unique Kwele initiation mask from the Democratic Republic of Congo circa 1980s. The Kwele occupy the forested region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These masks are worn in dances for initiation ceremonies.
The Kwele people are a tribal group of eastern Gabon, Republic of the Congo, and Cameroons in West Africa. They fled the coastal area of West Africa during the 19th century, after their traditional enemies acquired firearms from the slave traders. This altercation is often called the "Poupou" war. The Kwele then settled into lands between the Dja and Ivindo rivers. The Kwele are noted for their ceremonial masks which are collected as art objects
The masks are associated with the Beete association, which maintains social order, and are also used in initiation rites and at the end of mourning periods. Thought to represent benevolent forest spirits, the masks represent people or animals, or a combination of the two. Many lack eye slits; the masks are shown rather than worn, and many are painted with white kaolin earth, which the Kwele associate with light and clarity.
Their masks are recognized by their great simplicity, in a concentrated and analytical expression.
Measures: 7.5x4x11" H
Condition: Excellent, wear consistent with age.
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