Helmet Mask (Bwoom)

Helmet Mask (Bwoom) ©LCVA

Kuba culture
Democratic Republic of the Congo
wood, copper, beads, bark cloth, animal skin, seeds, shells
14" x 9" x 22.5"
1999.035
Gift of Donna and Thomas L. Brumfield, Jr.

The characters of the Bushong creation myth emerge on many different occasions in the Kuba culture. This mask's bulging forehead identifies it immediately as Bwoom and imitates the Tshwa (Pygmy) peoples. Bwoom's bulging forehead is said to represent grief for killing a rival's son. During dances performed as a part of male initiation rites, Bwoom is Mukenga's younger brother. In a dance of conflict and resolution, Bwoom engages Mukenga in a mock battle over the affection of Mukenga's sister/wife (Ngaady a Mwaash). This conflict is perhaps difficult for Westerners to comprehend as it suggests incest, but one need only look to Sophocles' tragic story, Oedipus Rex, for a parallel. This mask even lacks eye holes to allow the dancer to see.

Bibliography: Cornet, 1978, p.202.