Mask (Mwaash aMbooy)
Arts of Africa
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, From Colonies to States, 1660–1830
ART OF POWER
Although art has historically glorified the powerful, it can also be a means of communication and expression for those without power. These Congolese works represent opposite ends of the social spectrum.
The mwaash aMbooy mask is emblematic of royal power and prestige for the Kuba kingdom of the central Congo. It represents Woot, the founding hero from whom the Kuba trace their descent, and is worn only by the king (nyim) or by local chiefs. In both its dance and as a sculpture, it is a vision of gravity and composure.
The contemporary portraits by Aimé Mpane, in turn, depict the struggles of those without access to power. They show ordinary citizens of Kinshasa, along with representations of their fears and desires. The artist carves these images from plywood, turning two-dimensional surfaces into works filled with light and shadow (suggesting both presence and absence) that animate the stories of the dispossessed.
Rawhide, paint, plant fibers, textile, cowrie shells, glass, wood, monkey pelt, feathers
late 19th or early 20th century
22 x 20 x 18 in. (55.9 x 50.8 x 45.7 cm) (show scale)
Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
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Kuba (Bushoong subgroup) artist. Mask (Mwaash aMbooy), late 19th or early 20th century. Rawhide, paint, plant fibers, textile, cowrie shells, glass, wood, monkey pelt, feathers, 22 x 20 x 18 in. (55.9 x 50.8 x 45.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.1582. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 22.1582_overall_PS9.jpg)
overall, 22.1582_overall_PS9.jpg., 2019
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Mask of thin parchment, painted. Elaborately trimmed with shell and hair decoration. Shell eyes. The surface is highly decorative, composed of intricately painted geometric designs and geometrically arranged cowrie shells and beads. One feature, a long strip of beaded decoration extending from the bridge of the nose to the chin is present. Emphasis placed on 2 dimensional surface quality and elaborate polychromy.
Condition: Headdress worn and torn.
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