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    Description

    LWALWA, Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Mask

    Wood, pigment

    The Lwalwa live in southern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the frontier of Angola. They are related to the Ketu and Lundua, and formed relationships with the Salampasu and Mbagani, but kept their independence. Their economy is based upon subsistence farming, carried out by women, supplemented with hunting done by men, who also engage in trading. Lwalwa people live in small villages headed by a male or female chief, whose power is checked by that of the men's Bangongo Society, which also initiates the young, especially males, into their adult roles. There is some tradition of matrilineal descent, although children are raised by their fathers and belong to his family. Although the Lwalwa believe in a Supreme Creator, their religious practice tends to focus on nature spirits, some of which can be troublesome, and upon ancestors. Through offerings and prayers at dedicated shrines, dances and entertainments, Lwalwa religion seeks to maintain balance and order between the living, the ancestors and spirits.

    A sculptor (always male) is highly prized and well-paid for his work; he may become a village leader. Lwalwa art consists almost entirely of masks, which appear at boy's initiations, funerals and festivals held after hunts. Today, Lwalwa masks are used primarily for entertainments.

    There are four main types of masks, three of which are male. The male "Nkaki" mask has an angular, diamond-shaped face with a long, vertical nose bisecting the forehead, slitted, rectangular eyes and a small, protruding mouth. The male "Shifoola" mask has a much shorter and broader nose under an overhanging, shelflike brow. The present mask is probably of this type. The third male mask is the "Mvondo," which has a nose extended into the forehead area like the "Nkaki" mask, though the nose is shorter. The lone female mask, "Mushika," has a flat-topped, transverse frontal crest above the forehead. It probably represents a hairstyle. All types feature a hole between the bottom of the nose and the protruding mouth for the passage of a cord that is gripped by the dancer's teeth to hold the mask in place. Precise uses of the different mask types are unclear.

    Provenance:
    From the Estate of Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg

    Read more about the Liz Claiborne and Arthur Ortenberg Collection here.


    Sotheby's, Important Tribal Art, May 5, 1997, lot 186

    Height: 11 inches


    Condition Report*: In overall good to very good condition.  One area, approx 2 1/2" in length, of superficial wood loss behind the proper left ear.  One gash, approx. 1/2" in diameter, on proper right side of chin.  Each side with a couple of cracks.  Small holes (insect damage?) apparent.  Minor pigment loss.
    *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. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    July, 2016
    8th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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