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    Pende (Democratic Republic of Congo)
    Ginzengi Mask
    Wood, pigment, fiber
    Height: 13 ½ inches Width: 18 inches Depth:16 inches

    It should come as no surprise that indigenous leaders should seek to cope with the deep socio-psychological distress caused their people by the unspeakable conditions of colonial rule, especially in areas of particularly monstrous and cruel exploitation such as the former Belgian Congo. Nor should it surprise that these leaders sought to innovate within traditional parameters which had before proven effective. One of the most ancient, widespread, and successful modes of social control is masking.

    In the early decades of the twentieth century, a group of elders among the Central Pende "invented and sold concessions to a revolutionary new category of masks: mbuya jia mafuzo (lit. masks of sorcery) (Z. S. Strother. Inventing Masks. Agency and History in the Art of the Central Pende. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998, pp.229-234, 243-244). This new category of masks "presents the theme of inescapable power by depicting agents of sorcery: dangerous animals, sorcerer's dolls, and other strange and threatening apparitions" (Z. S. Strother, Invention and Reinvention in the Traditional Arts. African Arts, vol.XXVIII, no.2, Spring 1985, pp.24-33, 90). Ultimately, these masks were evidences of the monstrosity that resulted from the abuse of great power, which was most commonly manifested within the masking tradition as "the image of devouring power (conveyed) through depiction of the agents of sorcery" (Strother, African Arts, p.33).

    Ginzengi, one of the masks which was developed within the new mbuya jia mafuzo masking category, is recorded as in existence as early as 1924. "Ginzengi represents the multi-headed monster of folktales, Gimbombi, which catches and swallows people. Like the animals and the machines, it is classed as 'something [a creature] from the bush'...As with almost all of the mafuzo masks, Ginzengi is danced in the bush on the edge of the village" (Strother, Inventing Masks, pp.243-244).

    Evolving from an early form in which five separate masks were tied together on a palm bamboo pole and the masker danced behind the central one, Ginzengi reached its current three-headed helmet shape which employed various combinations of three earlier, time-honored mask types which had proven effective for each village or area (as with many Pende masks, there were variations from village to village). These helmets have multiple mouths the better to devour manifestations of sorcery.

    In this example, the central, front face appears to be Fumu, the mask of the chief. Since power is the focus of the mask, and in this case the abuse of power, a chief can go either way - good or bad - in the use of power. The face on the mask's right is Mbangu, the bewitched one. This famous mask type shows an individual suddenly struck with the physical misfortune of disease, attributable in the Pende world to sorcery, whose misuse is the target of Ginzengi. The mask on the left side is more difficult to identify, but may be Pota, a mask famed for frenzied movement in its dance.

    Overall the condition is very good. Natural drying and age cracks are present, with one severe one at top back center extending 4 ½ inches in toward the center knob.


    Private Collection, Bisbee, Arizona
    Tad Dale Tribal Arts, Santa Fe
    Gary Hendershott, Little Rock

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    7th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,363

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