Ngolo Mask, Pende, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Wood, pigments

14 1/6 x 4 3/4 x 1 2/4 in. (36 x 12 x 7 cm)


About this object

The Pende have an extensive range of mask forms, many with distinct characters or well-known types, which are embodied during ritual ceremonies, and intended to combine the traits of humans and animals.

This mask would have been featured in the seclusion rites of male circumcision (mukanda), which was thought to guarantee male fertility. According to Strother, “Eastern Pende mukanda masks play on the idea that the initiates have become ‘like’ creatures of the bush by fusing human and animal features. Every camp must have at least one Ngolo, which technically is a mask with two straight horns invoking generic antelope horns.” (Strother 2008: 5).

This Ngolo mask is slightly different from the most common ones, as it is topped by a diamond-shaped superstructure representing a pair of horns. It does show the usual characteristic stylized human face with long thin nose and protruding rounded eyes.

Janzen, John M. and Reinhild Kauenhoven-Janzen. “Pende Masks in Kauffman Museum,” African Arts 8, no. 4 (Summer 1975): 44-47.

Strother, Zoe S. Pende: Visions of Africa. Milan: Five Continents Editions, 2008.