Origin: Republic of the Congo, Bateke ethnic group

Dated: : early XXI century

Description: Bateke style face mask, possibly from the upper Ogowe region (border between the Republic of Congo and Gabon). The people of Teke (Bateke), used wooden masks from the mid-nineteenth century. Their kidumu dances originally served to confirm and maintain the social and political structure in a ceremonial context. The dancer was dressed in a cotton outfit, his face was covered with a mask with small openings at the edges, in which there were plant fibers, "waving" during the dance, giving the impression of mask movement. With the advent of French colonial rule, this tradition began to decline, and only after the Congo gained independence was it revived, if only for commercial purposes. The creators of the new masks drew on the old canon of motifs. Unlike the older masks, the rich geometric motifs are arranged almost symmetrically along the vertical and horizontal axes. Narrow eye slits encircling a tiny nose allowed the dancer to see when he was wearing a mask over his face. He held in his teeth the rope that was tied to the mask. The convex ridge on the reverse served to hold the mask over the dancer's face.



Bacquart Jean-Baptiste, 2010, The Tribal Arts of Africa, London: Thames&Hudson.

Bargna Ivan, 2000, African Art, Milano: Jaca Book.

Hahner Iris, Maria Kecskési, László Vajda, 2007, African Masks. The Barbier-Mueller Collection, Munich-Berlin-London-New York: Prestel.

Leuzinger Elsy, 1961, Africa Nera, Milano: Il Saggiatore.

Paulme Denise, 1956, Les Sculptures de l’Afrique Noire, Paris: Presses Universitaire de France.


The purchase is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport as part of the National Institute of Museums and Collections' own program "Expansion of museum collections".

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