Origine : Pangi (R.D. Congo)
Provenance : private Belgian collection
H : 14,5 cm
"The maskettes in wood, mostly of the muntonko (Alstonia) tree, generally have a whitened face and a fiber beard (luzelu, traditionally not in raffia, but in fibers from the lukusa liana, Manniophytum fulvum or Cordia abyssinica). The beard is fixed with cord through several holes running around the lower rim of the mask. The forehead and the rims generally exhibit a glossy brown patina.
The wooden maskette is one of the most important insignia of a male initiate of the second highest grade, lutumbo lwa yananio. There are, however, some groups where the mask is not owned by every initiate of that grade, but only by one person on behalf of the initiates of his extended family or five generation patrilineage. In a few areas this maskette type does not occur at all.T
he maskette is transferred and acquired during the lukwakongo rite of the lutumbo lwa yananio grade. It is passed on to the patrilineal or matrilineal relative chosen to ‘succeed’, when the current owner of the maskette dies, moves up to the kindi level, or acquires some special functions within the yananio grade.
The maskette is kept in a man’s shoulder bag together with other insignia and guarded in her house by his senior initiated kalonda wife. When a yananio dies he is buried in the house of his kalonda wife. His mask is placed on the grave with other paraphernalia.
In the yananio rites the maskettes are generally presented as a group, i.e. every participating yananio must bring his mask to the initiation and display it at the appropriate command. In the group manifestations maskettes may be attached to white cloth, worn fixed to the headdress, held against the forehead or under the chin, placed in a pile on the ground the beards touching, carried in the hands, dragged or swung around by their beards, fixed to a specially erected fence. In one of the displays the maskettes are handled by the initiated kalonda wives in the presence of their husbands to whom they ultimately surrender them.
A single maskette may be placed on a high pole in a rare yananio rite. Occasionally, a maskette brought along by a preceptor brieﬂy appears in a low-grade rite somewhat as a foretaste of bigger things to come.
Differently from the anthropomorphic figurines and from many animal carvings the wooden maskettes have no individual names. Lukwakongo (in some areas tulimu) is the generic term for all of them.
A rite in which the maskette illustrated in Cat. 17 (Tervuren 55.3.1412) occurred, provides an idea of the complexity of meanings conveyed by the lukwakongo within the initiation context. In this rite thirty-five iniitiates of lutumbo lwa yananio participated and thirty-five maskettes were present. No specific distinctions between masks were made; they were treated as a single unit, all of them expressing a common set of values."(*)
(*)Daniel P. Biebuyck,Ethics and Beauty Lega in the Heart of Africa,Bruxelles, 2002,p. 71