Treasure of the month
Pongdudu face mask
foto R. Asselberghs, KMMA Tervuren ©
Origin : BOA . Uele. Upper - Congo.
Dimensions : H. 30cm - W. 35 cm
Material : Wood (Alstonia congensis), pigments
Collected by A. Hutereau between 1910 and 1912
Registered as EO.0.0.11696
All our information indicates that the BOA were quite infrequent practitioners of mask sculpting. The approximately twenty known examples have for the most part a typical design - with as most outstanding feature, the often enlarged ears provided with round openings - by which they are readily identified. The portrayed bavongobo-helical perforation used to exist mainly among the Eastern BOA groups.
The oldest masks were collected prior to 1886, some others at the beginning of this century. The example here was come across by A. Hutereau in 1912 in the Monzali chiefdom.
According to him, this is a mask locally known as pongdudu, that "engenders fear in the enemy" and served during "war and dances". Hutereau is not alone in the opinion that the BOA masks were employed chiefly in contexts of warfare.
This war mask seems to have lost its function following the unsuccessful BOA uprising at the beginning of the 20th century against the administration of the Congo Free State. It received a new assignment, namely being the "last resort in the enculturation of children".
While this is not impossible, it is at least doubtful that such was indeed the case for all BOA groups. It appears that following the pacification of the Uele-Aruwimi territory, there were few masks still made or even used by the BOA.
(Text based on the contribution of H. Burssens in Treasures of the Africamuseum, (Tervuren, 1995), p. 390)
This mask is on display in the museum in the Art room.
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