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Leuvensesteenweg 13
3080 Tervuren - Belgium
Tel. (+32) 02 769 52 11
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Treasure of the month

Luba helmet mask

Origin: Luba. Katanga, D.R. Congo
Material: Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii)
Dimensions: H 39 cm
Collected by Oscar Michaux in 1899
Catalogued at the RMCA under no. EO.0.0.23470

Its exceptional aesthetic qualities undoubtedly make this rare buffalo mask one of the best-known masterpieces in the Museum.

The sides have horns and a bird can be seen on the back. This anthropozoomorphic depiction refers to the buffalo, suggesting that this is an important object associated with the power of the chief: the buffalo is a peaceful yet aggressive animal that is associated with the supernatural and ambivalent qualities of the sacred chief of the Luba.

For many years, the bird at the back of the head was separated from the mask. In order to restore it to its place and find out more about the structure of the wood and the tree rings, the mask underwent X-ray examination in January 2005 by Dr Marc Ghysels. The object was restored by Georges Dewispelaere (*).

The mask was until recently on display in the Museum’s art room, along with a 3D animation of the X-ray images.

From July 7, 2013 until January 5, 2014  this masterpiece is part of the temporary exhibition 'Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa' in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

* thanks to the sponsorship of the Inbev-Baillet Latour Fund

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