Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Bwoom mask
  • unknown Kuba maker
  • Bwoom mask, 1900s
  • Where object was made: Zaire (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • wood, raffia cloth, metal, cowrie shells, plant fiber, goat hair? beading, stamping, carving
  • Object Height/Width/Depth: 49 x 24 x 29 cm height includes beard flap
    Object Height/Width/Depth: 19 1/4 x 9 7/16 x 11 3/8 in height includes beard flap
  • Gift of Jill Zinn
  • Not on display
  • 2007.2959
Label Text

The helmet style mask depicts a human-like face. The face is made of a brown metal, as are the ears. The forehead is decorated with chevrons and diamonds created by punching small holes in the metal. There is a wide "V" with a vertical row created from red and black beads. There are no eyes to speak of, but a row of black and white beads defines the top and rows of green and white beads define the bottom, as well as travelling over the bridge of the large nose. The nose is covered in stripes of slightly different shades of green with black and white chevrons running down the nose. The cheeks are partially covered with black beads and three yellow circles each. The portion of the face inferior to the nose is covered in black and white beaded triangles, except for the lips, which are metal outlined with black and white beads (and a few light blue) and the area under the lips has red and blue beading in diamonds and chevrons. The jaw is edged with a strip of raffia cloth and a fringe of cowrie shells. There is a flap of cloth decorated with cowries that hangs from the chin.

The vertical area between the ears and eyes is fully beaded, the top a typical Kuba-like diamond in red, blue and light green on the right and black and red on the left. The area below is blue with two diamond oulines in yellow and red (right side) or yellow only (left side).

The large ears are decorated with a dot design, created by punching.

The top of the mask is flat, covered with raffia cloth, and decorated in a harlequin pattern of plant fiber cord with cowrie shells at the intersections. There is a small semi-circular flap that drapes over the forehead, with a fringe of cowries on the edge and a rosette of four cowries in the center. A fringe of black goat hair goes around the back of the flat top, and there is a fringe of light colored goat hair over the forehead. The back of the mask is covered with the same raffia cloth, a rectangle of red and blue beads in a typically Kuba geometric pattern. The remaining cloth is decorated with cowries in rows at the top or "X's" for the remainder.