Lot: 272

Anthropomorphic helmet mask "hemba"

D. R. Congo, Suku

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Lore Kegel (1901-1980), Hamburg, Germany
Boris Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg, Germany
Mamadou Keita, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1983)
Jean-Pierre Jernander, Brussels, Belgium
H: 16.9 inch 4500 EUR / 8000 EUR

wood, pigments, rest., base

This helmet mask is used by some Yaka enclaves and their Suku neighbours in the east and south. It is integrated into the initiation rites of the "n-khanda" (Yaka) or "mukanda" society (Suku). It is called "mbala" by the Yaka and "hemba" by the Suku.

The mask is crowned by the Duiker antelope "tsetse", who appears in Yaka and Suku folktales as a cunning trickster and is considered the patron of young initiates.

"Hemba" is first danced in the initiation camp after being treated by a magic priest with a concoction of powerful ingredients and the blood of a cock that had been sprinkled over it. This activated the masks magical power and no one could casually touch it without harm.

Afterwards, she performs in pairs at the closing ceremonies in the village. For this dance, additional charms are placed inside the mask or attached to its shaggy fringe that would "shoot" any witch who might attempt to harm the dancer.


Herreman, Frank & Constantijn Petridis (ed.), Face of the Spirits, Tervuren 1993, p. 50, ill. 2

ADHRC: 0016397